Harperbury Free School website

In case you haven’t found it, there is now a website for Harperbury Free School. This is the proposal which is being developed as a direct result of the discussions started by this website.

The plan is to apply under the Free School system at the end of this year (no deadline yet announced by the Government) and, if it is approved, open the doors in September 2014.

All information can be found at www.harperburyfreeschool.org.uk

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Exciting News!

We have been a bit quiet publicly for a while but for a very good reason. Behind the scenes we have been forming a Steering Committee to take forward the idea of a new secondary school.

We are now intending to put in a formal application early next year to set up and run a new secondary school called Harperbury Free School on the old  Harperbury Hospital site to serve families in Radlett, Shenley and London Colney.

In the next few weeks we will set up a new website and email for the school. In the meantime you can start to follow our progress on Twitter at #HarperburyFS

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School transport consultation

Perhaps helping to demonstrate the case for a truly local school, Hertfordshire County Council are currently “consulting” on proposed changes to the school bus network. The changes – to save some £6 million a year – include transferring some routes to commercial operators and axing some routes altogether unless the schools, parents or someone else can take them over.

Obviously, in the absence of a local school to which they can walk or cycle, all secondary school students in Radlett & Shenley travel to school by bus or car (with a few going by train). Some of the proposed cuts will directly affect families in Radlett & Shenley, such as the 887 bus which goes from Borehamwood through Radlett and Park Street to Townsend School in St Albans.

The “consultation” goes on to 15 August but it seems to me that the Council has already made up its mind. Find details here.

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Free School Project Update – July 2011

It is now a year since I set up the Radlett Free School Project website as a vehicle for discussion about the possibility of establishing a new secondary school for Radlett and Shenley. Over that time I have personally had discussions with many local people who are concerned about the issue of secondary transfer, as well as with local Councillors and owners and neighbours of possible sites for such a school. I have also been helped by a small number of enthusiastic people, all parents of young children who see this as a real practical solution for their own children.

Our conclusion is that we should go ahead and try to make it a reality. We have recently conducted a survey of parents whose children are attending the primary schools in Radlett, Shenley and London Colney in Year 3 and below. The results of a representative sample (of 100 families with over 200 children between them) are clear: 62% said they would definitely consider such a school for their children, 36% said they would want more information on the school and only 2% said they definitely would not be interested.

So here is the outline of our basic plan:

Location – we could not find a suitable site in either Radlett or Shenley but have identified part of the Harperbury Hospital site as our preferred location. The site is being redeveloped over the next 2/3 years providing an opportunity for a new school to be built there. The existing buildings will need to be demolished and rebuilt within the same “footprint” as it is within the Green Belt. Ideally we would want new environmentally friendly buildings with solar heating, solar panels for electricity etc.

Transport – we want to encourage as many students as possible to walk or cycle to school so would aim to establish footpaths and “greenways” from Radlett, Shenley and London Colney to the school. We would probably also need some school buses but would strongly discourage the use of cars for transporting students to and from school.

Admission rules – we want a local co-educational, comprehensive and non-denominational school open to all, based on their proximity to the school. This means the school will predominantly serve families in the Parishes of Aldenham, Shenley and London Colney. It will also of course comply with legal requirements for admission of SEN pupils, siblings and so on.

Numbers – we plan for three-form entry (90 per year) with the facilities to expand to four form entry (120 per year) in the future. In 2011 the total applications from the three Parishes to state secondary schools was 270 so this would represent around a third of all local secondary students (although we estimate up to a further 100 students applied to private schools, many because they could not get places at their preferred state schools and such families could in future apply to the new school).

Curriculum – we plan a “traditional” academic education including the new “English Bac” at GCSE level. Our Sixth Form will also cover all main academic subjects, including sciences and technology. We hope to be able to arrange exchanges with other local schools and colleges in St Albans for more specialist subjects at Sixth Form (this is already common in the area). The school is likely to become a specialist school in one or more subject, again, as for all other secondary schools in the area. The school will have some sports and music facilities and will aim to share facilities with other local schools to provide a wide range of such activities.

Timing – Our target is to make a formal application to open a Free School next June (2012) and we hope to open the doors in September 2014, which means being ready for the first student applications in October 2013. The first year would have just 90 students and when they move up in the following year there would be 90 more. It will therefore take six years to have a full school with around 600 students. However, this timetable is highly subject to change!

So, we are now at the stage where we need to build up the expertise of our Steering Group to be able to develop our application. We are looking for a number of professionals, including teachers and other educators to assist in the creation of our school’s curriculum but also accountants, lawyers and marketing professionals to develop the business plans.

We would also like to hear from anyone who would like to be part of the “PTA” for the school starting to raise funds and spread the word about our plans. We believe this new school is a real possibility but we have a long way to go to make it happen and will need continuing support from as many people as possible.

If you think you can help please contact Clive Glover on 01923 853483 or Emma Eaves on 01923 850237

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A key part of the Business Case we will be required to produce for a new school is to be able to demonstrate demand for places. We have therefore created a simple online survey to enable us to quantify the real numbers of people who could apply for places for their children.

Our preliminary target would be to open the new school in September 2014 so we would be able to offer places to children currently in Year 3 and below. If you have children in this age group and would be interested in applying for places in a new local secondary school for them, please complete our survey (it takes less than one minute!).

Details on the Survey page of this website.

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Secondary School Allocations 2011

The results of this year’s round of secondary school allocations have now been published. It has been a good year with a high level of applicants being offered places at one of their three ranked schools.

Full details on the 2011 Allocations page.

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School Transport Consultation

Perhaps highlighting once again the unusual  situation for students living in Radlett and Shenley, Herts County Council is looking at making cuts to the school transport system, in other words, school buses. As we have no local school everyone has to travel over three miles (and many much further) to get to school and back again.

Many of the school buses which go to state schools in nearby towns (and the City of St Albans) are run under contract to Herts CC and these are “800 series” buses. It is these which appear to be under threat as part of the current consultation.

I would suggest you read the consultation documents and respond to Herts CC saying that they must retain these buses even if, as seems inevitable, they will raise fares.

Details can be found at http://www.hertsdirect.org/havesay/consultation/crtcnslt/consultations/h2st/

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