Stay up to date with notifications from The Independent

Notifications can be managed in browser preferences.

National Offer Day: Parents to protest after hundreds of children left without any secondary school places

‘I was distraught. There were tears and there was anger’

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Tuesday 05 March 2019 18:49 GMT
Josie Madoc with her daughter Seren who has missed out on a school place in Hertfordshire
Josie Madoc with her daughter Seren who has missed out on a school place in Hertfordshire (Josie Madoc)

More than 100 parents will protest after children were not offered secondary school places.

Hundreds of pupils have been left without spots for September after National Offer Day last week amid a struggle to accommodate a growing population.

Hertfordshire County Council has not been able to offer a place to nearly 200 children (7 per cent) and across London more than 700 children have not yet been allocated a secondary school place.

This is the first time that Hertfordshire council has failed to allocate all children with a school place.

It comes after experts predicted a record number of children, around 115,000 pupils, would miss out on their first-choice school this year amid a population bulge moving into secondary education.

The Good Schools Guide estimates 606,000 applied for places this year – a rise of 23,000 on 2018.

Parents in Hertfordshire will protest on Saturday against the “secondary school crisis” and demand that local children without school places are prioritised on the council’s waiting list.

Families are also concerned that a number of new housing developments have been built which could put even higher demands on schools.

Josie Madoc, from St Albans, Hertfordshire, was one of the parents told on Friday that there were no school places available for her daughter. Her first choice was only 1,500 metres away from her home.

She told The Independent: “I was quite distraught really. There were tears and there was anger.”

On the upcoming protest, which she organised, Ms Madoc added: “I think it is going to be quite big and hopefully somebody will listen. We are expecting more than 100 people to come along.

“So many people are saying to me either ‘it affects me today’ or a lot of people have said it is such an outrageous issue that they will be there.

“Lots of people are saying ‘it doesn’t affect me yet but I want the fix now before it gets to my turn.’”

Hertfordshire County Council said a delay in funding approval from the government meant a new free school, being built in nearby village Harpenden, came in too late for the secondary school to be included in the council’s normal allocation process.

Terry Douris, cabinet member for education, said: “This means that a large number of children in the area have been offered two places – one at Katherine Warington [the free school due to open in September] and one through the coordinated scheme.

“These families will now advise us which offer they will be accepting, meaning duplicate offers are removed and a large number of places become available.

“We are confident that we will be able to offer a local school place to all children during the first run of ‘continuing interest’ in week commencing 18 March.”

The problem with places appears most acute in London and other areas in the south.

More than 7,250 pupils in London failed to receive a place at any of their choices – and 714 are still waiting to hear where they will go to secondary school as they still have not been offered a place.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said there had been “variability” across councils on how well they had planned for secondary school places.

She added: “The number of secondary pupils will rise significantly over the next few years so it is important that all local authorities get this right and work closely with multi-academy trusts and other sponsors to ensure there are sufficient places.

“Given that most of these children are already in local primary schools it should be relatively straightforward.”

Support free-thinking journalism and attend Independent events

Councillor Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the local government association’s children and young people board, said: “We have long warned that the number of children needing secondary school places is growing at a far faster rate than the number of places available.

“It makes no sense for councils to be given the responsibility to plan for school places but then not allowed to open schools themselves.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “This government is determined to create more choice for parents when it comes to their children’s education and we have created 825,000 school places since 2010, and are on track to see that number rise to a million by 2020.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in