Katherine Warington School
Formal rejection on the 25th September 2018, of the appeal against the judicial review which had been sought by ‘Right School, Right Place’ objectors, has cleared the way for building to begin on the new Katherine Warington secondary ‘free’ school, on the Green Belt site at Common Lane, Batford. The Department for Education and the appointed contractors Kier are said to be working towards a construction start-up in late November.

The initial objective is for a 180-place school ‘for six forms of entry at year 7’ to be ready in September 2019 - albeit twelve months later than originally projected. Its classrooms will be accommodated in the first school building to be completed, which will become the school sports hall when the whole development is ready for occupation - by the target date of August 2020.
At a massively well-attended open day for prospective parents and pupils held in Rothamsted’s Fowden Hall in early October, the school’s aims and aspirations, spelled out in the Autumn 2017 Harpenden Society newsletter, were reaffirmed by head teacher designate Tony Smith.

Particular emphasis was placed on the matter of access to the school, sited at the busy junction of Lower Luton Road and Common Lane, where the potential for serious traffic congestion at school morning arrival and afternoon departure times, has had to be addressed.

Accordingly, the school authorities have come forward  with detailed proposals aimed at making it easier and  safer for as many pupils as possible to get to and from the new school without their having to be ‘chauffeured’ by car, typically by their parents.

At no less than 22 locations in Harpenden, on routes likely to be taken by pupils and/or parents, walking or cycling, modifications to existing road and footpath infrastructure are proposed, necessarily requiring budget allocation from Herts County Council.

Notable examples include: a suggested lowering of current speed limits, from 40 to 30mph and 30 to 20mph on Lower Luton Road and Crabtree Lane; additional bus-stops near the school; zebra, toucan or puffin pedestrian crossings at strategic points on busier roads near the school; ‘pedestrian dropped kerbs and tactile paving’ (benefiting parents with push chairs, and minimising trip risks); enlargement of the mini-roundabout at Station Road/Lower Luton Road junction ‘to increase its capacity’; footbridge improvement over River Lea from Crabtree lane, with better street lighting.
The Harpenden Society Welcomes the Plan for a New Secondary School
Chris Marsden, chairman of The Harpenden Society, following a vigorous discussion at its recent committee meeting, sent to county councillors a  resounding message of welcome to the news of a new secondary school in the town. 'We see this', he claimed, 'as a positive result of our work with the Harpenden Parents Group and others alongside the powerful efforts of local councillors' His request that The Society be included in future discussions about encouraging 'the school to become a key part of the local community' has been met with a pleasing affirmative reply.

The Campaign

For two years and a half years The Society's Education and Leisure Working Group, in concert with the 400-strong Harpenden Parents Group, has campaigned for new schools in Harpenden - and  we are heartened to find that the figures supplied by the county demographers are much the same as those calculated by the Harpenden Parents Group analysts.

The Figures

We need a one form entry (i.e. 30 secondary places) for every 850 dwellings. It has been calculated that, peaking in 2019, Harpenden will require an extra six-form entry provision (180 x 7 = 1260 pupils, inclusive of the 2015 extension of the participation age to 18). The shortfall is really alarming.

The Benefits

Apart from the obvious delight for parents in having another neighbourhood school, with the alternative being, by 2019, the sombre prospect of the equivalent of thirty packed double-decker school buses daily transporting children elsewhere, there are other advantages.

Knowing of the increasingly flimsy defences of the green belt, many will be relieved to see 15 hectares of land, the huge majority of it devoted to trim playing fields, removed from the peril of extensive housing for the foreseeable future.
The school should provide a priceless cultural and social asset to the Batford and Wheathampstead communities.

Wherever one builds now in Harpenden there will be traffic problems, but modern school building ideally incorporates decent vehicular access to ease the traffic problem and progressive highways departments have elsewhere helped with improved cycle ways.

The Danger

Objection to the school, not least the temptation to second-guess by those who welcome a school but would prefer it somewhere else, is risky. The ready availability of a site at the opportune time is as important as geographical considerations. Failure to deliver on this site could lead to grave delay or abandonment. This could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

If it happens, it will be a victory. The feeling of relief among parents in the town is palpable. The Society's position is uncompromising. We earnestly asked for new schools - and we have been given one, Thank you very much, Herts County Council.

Among several supportive messages, one of the first to arrive, quite unsolicited, was from a mightily relieved parent with children at the Lea Primary School:

'Really great news about the secondary school - it is without doubt that The Harpenden Society and the Harpenden Parents Group have played a key role to getting to this position.'
2018/19 Annual Report
Construction work on the Katherine Warrington School, Harpenden’s fourth secondary school, is now well advanced, with every expectation that it will open for first year pupils in September.  Headteacher Tony Smith is actively recruiting staff and says he is impressed by the calibre of teacher already appointed. The opening of the new school should bring to an end the annual anguish suffered by parents and children who previously could not gain a place at one of the town’s secondary schools.

Under the auspices of the Harpenden Secondary Schools Trust, Roundwood Park, St Georges and Sir John Lawes schools have been collaborating more closely, notably on the organisation of a Drugs Awareness evening held at Rothamsted in November, which was well attended by parents and students from all three schools. The evening was deemed sufficiently fruitful for similar events to be considered on topics such as knife crime.

Chris Armitage