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School Expansions in Hertfordshire - Forward Planning Continues Under New Conditions

brick layingWhen consultations and planning reviews take place with a view towards building more homes, people often worry that houses will be built without the necessary social support.

While it is true that the County Council now has a much reduced role in education, it is also true that it continues to make plans for primary and secondary school expansions. County Council officers are always on the look out for sites suitable for schools and the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) still provides the capital for expansions.

Two restrictions nowadays do limit the expansion plans to an increasing extent. Firstly, schools that are Academies need not participate in the County's plans if they do not wish to do so. Secondly, Free Schoools can be established without reference to the demand for places in their local areas. They will also get funding from resources available through the ESFA and this obviously reduces what is available for other schools and academies in the County.

While there are always local difficulties in specific places across the County, we can be re-assured that in general the system is still functioning reasonably well.

A recent review of Hertfordshire's secondary school expansion has revealed that:

  • Both the 2015 and 2016 expansion programmes were satisfactorily delivered;
  • The 2017 and 2018 programmes are on target;
  • Site selections for 2019 are taking place and ESFA planning applications will be made this Autumn
  • The deferred Harpenden expansion will now take place this year; interim St Albans places have been secured and a free school is to open in Croxley on the sponsor's site
  • As part of planning revision the new Bishops Stortford North secondary school has been deferred to 2020

However, people should be re-assured that, because the consultation process for major developments and local development plans is very slow, and the need for planning applications is a further delay, the County's planning system is still functioning well. So there is plenty of time for the County to have school capacity in place by the time new estates are ready for occupation.