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'Room for all', assure school bosses

THE education authority says it is confident that local secondary school places can be found for all children in the Harpenden district.

The announcement comes after more than 60 pupils in the area failed to get a place at a school of their choice for the next academic year.

Harpenden's Roundwood Park School and Sandringham School, St Albans, have already agreed to offer extra places and the education authority is also in discussions with Sir John Lawes, Harpenden.

Any additional places will have to be approved by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator.

Hertfordshire County Council's executive member for education, Robert Gordon, who met parents in Wheathampstead on Tuesday night, said: "It looks pretty hopeful that we can offer sufficient places so we can resolve what is a uniquely high demand this year."

The numbers of pupils applying to secondary schools in Harpenden has increased from 515 last year to 575 this year, despite a fall in the numbers applying for school places across the county as a whole.

An extra form of entry was introduced at St George's School, Harpenden, last September to meet growing demand for places in the town, but the number of applications this year has exceeded predictions.

Harpenden MP Peter Lilley has called for an independent inquiry into the way demand for school places is calculated by local education authorities.

He said: "This increase does not seem to have been anticipated by county council officials, who are predicting a decline next year and the year after.

"We need to investigate what has gone wrong this year before we can have any confidence in the figures for the future."

Mr Lilley, who met parents at his surgery on Friday to discuss the issue, added: "The priority must be to find the maximum number of places in local schools for these pupils."

The MP urged local schools to take the maximum number of pupils this year to help accommodate the unforeseen increase.

Councillor Gordon confirmed that a review of the system would be conducted after this year's admission problems had been resolved.

But he added: "The reality is, it is not that easy to predict these movements and we have limited scope to respond in advance."

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