More than 94 per cent of children allocated first choice primary school place in Hertfordshire

First published in News
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More than 94 per cent of children in Hertfordshire have been allocated a place at one of their preferred schools this year, despite a large increase in the number of applications.

However, Hertfordshire County Council has said more places in primary and secondary schools are still required, leading the Liberal Democrats to say the admissions system is "failing our children".

The council processed more than 18,300 applications, with 94 per cent of applicants offered a place at one of their top three schools, slightly lower than 95 per cent last year.

More than 81 per cent of pupils were allocated their first ranked school, nearly eight per cent were allocated their second ranked school, more than three per cent their third ranked school and just over one per cent were given their fourth ranked school.

The number of children applying for a place in primary schools across the county has risen by 595 this year, with a total of 15,454 applications for reception places received.

The council said it had spent more than £100 million to provide an additional 2,000 Reception places in Hertfordshire, and a further £20 million has already been committed to provide 250 extra permanent places for September 2015.

In order to ensure that additional places were available to match the demand, some potential expansions were identified but not finalised until all primary applications for 2014 had been received.

Across the county, ten existing schools will now be admitting extra pupils, including 30 places at Knutsford in Watford and 30 places at Warren Dell in South Oxhey. There will also be 120 places offered at two other new free schools planned for Watford.

Council director of education and early intervention Justin Donovan said: "Starting primary school or moving on to a junior or middle school is an important step and we are pleased that even more children have been allocated a ranked school this year, despite the increase in the number of applications.

"This year, if a significant number of children in an area cannot be offered a place at one of their ranked schools and the nearest alternative school place is in another town or village, then places are not offered at this stage and will instead be offered next month through the continuing interest process. This strategy means that some applicants will not be offered a place on allocation day.

"I recognise this is always a difficult time for parents but firmly believe that delaying allocations for a small number of families is preferable to allocating a place at a school outside the local area."

The Liberal Democrats said the primary schools admissions system is "failing our children".

The spokesperson on education and children’s services, Mark Watkin, said: "Hundreds of families across the county have a worrying few weeks ahead while they wait to see in county council can find any extra capacity in their area. Parents want to see their children in a good, local school and not having a school place for a child is very stressful.

"I am also very concerned for those parents who have not been able to obtain one of their selected schools or will have to travel miles to have their child educated and shall continue to demand that the county ensures more school places are provided where they are needed in good time for 2015/16.

"We are in this position because of short-sighted and greedy decisions that were made to save money rather than to make sure our children get the excellent education they deserve."

The total of 17,700 Hertfordshire parents and carers were told about their application decision last night.

All parents and carers already offered a school place must respond by April 30.

The deadline to submit an appeal is 4pm on May 22.

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