County council accused of 'failing children' as nearly a fifth miss out on first choice primary school

Watford Observer: County council accused of 'failing children' as nearly a fifth miss out on first choice primary school County council accused of 'failing children' as nearly a fifth miss out on first choice primary school

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

Did you miss out on your first choice? Read our seven things you can do about it here.

The council processed more than 18,300 applications, with 94 per cent of applicants offered a place at one of their top three schools, down from 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 more than 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 is has 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.

Justin Donovan, council director of education and early intervention, 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".

Mark Watkin, spokesperson on education and children’s services, 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.

For more information visit www.hertsdirect.org/primaryoptions

Comments (10)

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8:43pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Cuetip says...

This blame culture / passing the buck by politicians is utterly opportunistic.
The Watford situation is absolutely dire because of short sightedness and the blind pursuit of building ever increasing densities without any regard to services.

It's about time that the opinions of locals were acted on with more joined up thinking as regards housing, parking and services.

Locals are fed up with having to bus their children all over the place which only increases congestion as pack people in like sardines.
This blame culture / passing the buck by politicians is utterly opportunistic. The Watford situation is absolutely dire because of short sightedness and the blind pursuit of building ever increasing densities without any regard to services. It's about time that the opinions of locals were acted on with more joined up thinking as regards housing, parking and services. Locals are fed up with having to bus their children all over the place which only increases congestion as pack people in like sardines. Cuetip
  • Score: 6

9:13pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Wacko Jacko says...

There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places.
There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places. Wacko Jacko
  • Score: 4

9:33pm Thu 17 Apr 14

#UKMum says...

Watford Council should appreciate that services are over stretched and put a motatorium on high rise developments.
Watford Council should appreciate that services are over stretched and put a motatorium on high rise developments. #UKMum
  • Score: 4

10:10pm Thu 17 Apr 14

jacbat says...

What is not clear here is that the 94% figure is not representative as people will choose a safe option that they don't really want. If they don't then if they don't get their real choice they could end up with something worse or miles away. Therefore the 95 % means nothing. People will not even bother to put something that is unabtainable. It can be your second nearest but you know you will not get it. if people put their 'real' top three we would see the 'real' results. People don't as they are already resigned to the fact they don't have a choice.
What is not clear here is that the 94% figure is not representative as people will choose a safe option that they don't really want. If they don't then if they don't get their real choice they could end up with something worse or miles away. Therefore the 95 % means nothing. People will not even bother to put something that is unabtainable. It can be your second nearest but you know you will not get it. if people put their 'real' top three we would see the 'real' results. People don't as they are already resigned to the fact they don't have a choice. jacbat
  • Score: 3

10:17pm Thu 17 Apr 14

Sara says...

There are 134 children in the Watford area who are currently not allocated any school to start in September. That is immensely stressful for parents and children.

The County Council receives funding from every hosing development yo fund new school places, but there are still not enough. Why not?
There are 134 children in the Watford area who are currently not allocated any school to start in September. That is immensely stressful for parents and children. The County Council receives funding from every hosing development yo fund new school places, but there are still not enough. Why not? Sara
  • Score: 8

3:00pm Fri 18 Apr 14

John Dowdle says...

The use of average figures obscures the differences in different parts of e county as to availability of school places. My guess is that the Tory heartland area of North and East Hertfordshire is very well served in terms of school places but in the South and West areas of the county it is a wholly different story. Is there any way that this can be checked out?
I warned about this problem several years ago - and nothing happened.
While it is abundantly clear that the Conservatives at County Hall are principally responsible for this mess, their coalition partners - the Liberal Democrats - also share some degree of responsibility.
As the second largest group on the county council, it is evident that the Liberal Democrats were asleep at the wheel while this mess developed.
County has plenty of unused properties located around the county, including in the south west area of the county. It is not that long ago that the Watford Observer revealed that county had spent £2 million on security costs to secure unused properties and buildings in the county.
Wake up County - and get on with providing places for our children NOW.
Are people still dismissive of my suggestion that we need a London Borough of Watford within the borders of the M25?
If the local authorities in Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere had formed a London Borough before now, that would have brought education provision under local control which should have been much more responsive to local needs than the dim and distant county hall.
The use of average figures obscures the differences in different parts of e county as to availability of school places. My guess is that the Tory heartland area of North and East Hertfordshire is very well served in terms of school places but in the South and West areas of the county it is a wholly different story. Is there any way that this can be checked out? I warned about this problem several years ago - and nothing happened. While it is abundantly clear that the Conservatives at County Hall are principally responsible for this mess, their coalition partners - the Liberal Democrats - also share some degree of responsibility. As the second largest group on the county council, it is evident that the Liberal Democrats were asleep at the wheel while this mess developed. County has plenty of unused properties located around the county, including in the south west area of the county. It is not that long ago that the Watford Observer revealed that county had spent £2 million on security costs to secure unused properties and buildings in the county. Wake up County - and get on with providing places for our children NOW. Are people still dismissive of my suggestion that we need a London Borough of Watford within the borders of the M25? If the local authorities in Watford, Three Rivers and Hertsmere had formed a London Borough before now, that would have brought education provision under local control which should have been much more responsive to local needs than the dim and distant county hall. John Dowdle
  • Score: 3

4:43pm Fri 18 Apr 14

Cuetip says...

Wacko Jacko wrote:
There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places.
Surely it's a crass failure by WBC in not having any sense of joined up thinking but chasing some housing target which adds to schooling pressures

Do you think the massive increase in building homes / flats by WBC has any connection with the rising birth rate as flat dwellers tend to be younger and more likely to start a family?

The Ascot school is supposed to close the gap but what happens when 750 homes come on steam in West Watford not to mention all the HMOs and conversions etc?

I don't recall any plan to put a secondary school on the Watford Junction site where hundreds more homes are planned to attract all and sundry to sunny Watford.
[quote][p][bold]Wacko Jacko[/bold] wrote: There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places.[/p][/quote]Surely it's a crass failure by WBC in not having any sense of joined up thinking but chasing some housing target which adds to schooling pressures Do you think the massive increase in building homes / flats by WBC has any connection with the rising birth rate as flat dwellers tend to be younger and more likely to start a family? The Ascot school is supposed to close the gap but what happens when 750 homes come on steam in West Watford not to mention all the HMOs and conversions etc? I don't recall any plan to put a secondary school on the Watford Junction site where hundreds more homes are planned to attract all and sundry to sunny Watford. Cuetip
  • Score: -2

7:40pm Fri 18 Apr 14

John Dowdle says...

Cuetip wrote:
Wacko Jacko wrote:
There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places.
Surely it's a crass failure by WBC in not having any sense of joined up thinking but chasing some housing target which adds to schooling pressures

Do you think the massive increase in building homes / flats by WBC has any connection with the rising birth rate as flat dwellers tend to be younger and more likely to start a family?

The Ascot school is supposed to close the gap but what happens when 750 homes come on steam in West Watford not to mention all the HMOs and conversions etc?

I don't recall any plan to put a secondary school on the Watford Junction site where hundreds more homes are planned to attract all and sundry to sunny Watford.
Where I agree there has been a failure is that local councils and County Council should have been meeting together and planning adequate provision of school places in the wider Watford area. On a technical point, the scrapping of county quadrants by the County Education Department (or whatever name it goes under these days) has clearly served to take their eye off the ball with regard to being informed of local events taking place on the ground, which would previously have alerted them to change.
Re-structuring the administrative structure of the County Council may have saved a couple of bob in the short term but it will end up costing plenty more before this mess is finally fixed up in the long run .
County Hall - and the County Tories and their coalition partners - have a lot to answer for, particularly where West Hertfordshire is concerned.
[quote][p][bold]Cuetip[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Wacko Jacko[/bold] wrote: There's no getting away from the fact that the county failed to recognise the increase in birth rate a few years back and consequent higher demand on school places in Watford now. The shortage of primary school places will surely be visited on secondary schools as the kids grow up, I hope that doesn't come as a surprise to the county and they're planning an appropriate increase in secondary places.[/p][/quote]Surely it's a crass failure by WBC in not having any sense of joined up thinking but chasing some housing target which adds to schooling pressures Do you think the massive increase in building homes / flats by WBC has any connection with the rising birth rate as flat dwellers tend to be younger and more likely to start a family? The Ascot school is supposed to close the gap but what happens when 750 homes come on steam in West Watford not to mention all the HMOs and conversions etc? I don't recall any plan to put a secondary school on the Watford Junction site where hundreds more homes are planned to attract all and sundry to sunny Watford.[/p][/quote]Where I agree there has been a failure is that local councils and County Council should have been meeting together and planning adequate provision of school places in the wider Watford area. On a technical point, the scrapping of county quadrants by the County Education Department (or whatever name it goes under these days) has clearly served to take their eye off the ball with regard to being informed of local events taking place on the ground, which would previously have alerted them to change. Re-structuring the administrative structure of the County Council may have saved a couple of bob in the short term but it will end up costing plenty more before this mess is finally fixed up in the long run . County Hall - and the County Tories and their coalition partners - have a lot to answer for, particularly where West Hertfordshire is concerned. John Dowdle
  • Score: 3

9:30am Tue 22 Apr 14

garston tony says...

And JD did Labour say anything about this situation at County Level? I seem to recall that they werent adverse to approving the building of housing in Watford which led to increased pressures on schools when they were in charge.

The fact is that this isnt a new or even relatively new problem, its been an issue for many many years and all three major parties have had a hand in perpetuating it and or not resolving it and its simple minded just blaming whoever happens to be in charge at a particular given time.

I do agree the 94% figure is possibly irrelevant, i'd like to know how many parents put down their three nearest schools as their choices and how many of those didnt get into any of them. I'd then like the stats on how many children got into a school that isnt one of their nearest at the expense of a child living closer. Those stats are far more relevant to this whole debate. The only parents/children I have sympathy for are those who applied to their nearest schools but didnt get into them. If that is because someone living further away got a place then there is one of the big problems.

I have no sympathy for parents who didnt apply to their nearest schools and didnt get their first choice places (unless of course they applied to that school because there is an older sibling there who got in when they lived close to that school and they have since moved). The chances are they put down schools further away based on reputation, but what do they expect those schools are likely to be over subscribed so the chances are higher of not getting in. And if you willingly put down schools miles away its hypocritical to complain about needing to travel to whichever school you were eventually allocated to.
And JD did Labour say anything about this situation at County Level? I seem to recall that they werent adverse to approving the building of housing in Watford which led to increased pressures on schools when they were in charge. The fact is that this isnt a new or even relatively new problem, its been an issue for many many years and all three major parties have had a hand in perpetuating it and or not resolving it and its simple minded just blaming whoever happens to be in charge at a particular given time. I do agree the 94% figure is possibly irrelevant, i'd like to know how many parents put down their three nearest schools as their choices and how many of those didnt get into any of them. I'd then like the stats on how many children got into a school that isnt one of their nearest at the expense of a child living closer. Those stats are far more relevant to this whole debate. The only parents/children I have sympathy for are those who applied to their nearest schools but didnt get into them. If that is because someone living further away got a place then there is one of the big problems. I have no sympathy for parents who didnt apply to their nearest schools and didnt get their first choice places (unless of course they applied to that school because there is an older sibling there who got in when they lived close to that school and they have since moved). The chances are they put down schools further away based on reputation, but what do they expect those schools are likely to be over subscribed so the chances are higher of not getting in. And if you willingly put down schools miles away its hypocritical to complain about needing to travel to whichever school you were eventually allocated to. garston tony
  • Score: 0

9:35am Tue 22 Apr 14

angryangryangry says...

No comment from Mr Phil Cox? He must be on holiday!
No comment from Mr Phil Cox? He must be on holiday! angryangryangry
  • Score: 0

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