23.1 C
Harrow on the Hill
Monday, July 22, 2024
HomeMore NewsPlans to permanently expand oversubscribed school in St Albans

Plans to permanently expand oversubscribed school in St Albans

Education officials have drawn up plans that could permanently increase the number of places at an oversubscribed secondary school in St. Albans.

Officially, bosses at Beaumont School can offer just 210 places to new pupils starting each September. However, since 2022, they have been asked to take an extra class of pupils each year, increasing the overall numbers at the school.

Now, education officials have drawn up plans to fund additional facilities at the site, potentially enabling a permanent increase in the number of places available from 210 per year to 240.

ADVERTISEMENT

The proposals were outlined on Tuesday (June 18) at a meeting of the county council’s education, libraries, and lifelong learning cabinet panel. Councillors heard that there was already a DfE school rebuilding project ongoing at the school, designed to invest in the overall site. They were told that there was now an opportunity for the county council to engage in a joint project with the DfE to enable the expansion of the school, alongside the re-provisioning of facilities.

This could increase the number of places available overall to 1200, excluding the sixth form. Councillors were told that this would provide an opportunity for the county council to secure good value.

The report did acknowledge a level of “risk” associated with the project. However, the financial implications of the project were not reported in public, with discussions about the finances held in private.

Before backing the proposal, councillors heard that demand for places at Beaumont School was “significant.” More than 1200 pupils applied for year seven places at the school for September, with 400 of those being first choices. Councillors also heard that children had to live within 660 meters of the school to secure a place, according to the ‘last distance’ criteria.

Speaking in favour of the proposal, local Liberal Democrat councillor Anthony Rowlands highlighted an initial decision to “revert to seven form entry this year.” That would have restricted year seven places available in September to 210 and had, said Cllr Rowlands, “led to very considerable and understandable consternation.” He expressed gratitude that the county had moved swiftly to reinstate eight form entry for this September and that discussions had progressed to enable Beaumont to become permanently eight form entry.

However, he acknowledged that any expansion of a school would have wider implications. It was reported that demand for secondary school places in St. Albans has risen significantly in the last decade. Ten years ago, there were 1,268 pupils entering secondary schools in St. Albans, but that number has risen to approximately 1,800 now—an increase of more than 40 percent.

According to the officers’ report, the council has already invested more than £28 million to ensure sufficient places across St. Albans. This has included permanent expansion projects at Beaumont School, Marlborough Science Academy, Samuel Ryder Academy, Sandringham School, and St. Albans Girls’ School.

At the meeting, the proposal was unanimously backed by members of the cabinet panel. Liberal Democrat Cllr Chris Lloyd suggested it was “clear we need to do this.” Liberal Democrat Cllr Mark Watkin said it was “absolutely necessary,” suggesting that it would allow more children to go to a school closer to their home, rather than traveling across the town.

Now, a future meeting of the council’s cabinet will be asked to determine whether or not to approve the capital funding. A decision on whether the school could expand on a permanent basis would be made by the Department for Education’s regional director.

Never miss another news story, subscribe to Harrow Online for FREE!