Group Membership
A welcome new face on The Harpenden Society committee is that of Chris Armitage, whose watching brief is to head up our Education Working Group, at a time of exciting new school developments in the town, especially the imminent addition of a fourth secondary school, on the Common Lane site at Batford. 
As indicated in our Winter 2017 newsletter, Katherine Warington School (KWS) is expected to further consolidate the enviably high reputation enjoyed by Harpenden’s existing secondary schools - St George’s, Roundwood Park and Sir John Lawes - as educational centres of excellence. 
Chris Armitage, as a school governor and member of the Harpenden Secondary Schools Committee, says the collaborative involvement of the existing schools, along with representatives from Rothamsted Research, bodes well for the future success of KWS in maintaining the same high standards in both academic and extramural activities.

It is hoped, says Chris, that that collaboration will yield benefits in a wider context, especially that of Harpenden’s future as a community, a subject now being actively debated by all those concerned in formulating the town council’s Neighbourhood Plan.
Nowhere is that arguably more pertinent than in matters which in Oxford or Cambridge would traditionally be discussed under the heading of ‘town and gown’, and which, in 21st Century Harpenden, are apt to focus on the mundane but crucial issue of traffic congestion around schools at morning start and afternoon departure times.

It is something which, as Chris points out, is not always readily apparent to school staff; teachers normally get to school half an hour or more before their pupils and leave correspondingly later, so might not observe the traffic mayhem first hand.  Deterring parents from bringing their older children to school by car with resulting twice-a-day traffic chaos is an immense challenge to which, he admits, there is no obvious solution.

Chris Armitage, a Yorkshireman by birth, was a teacher all his working life until his ‘nominal’ retirement from full-time teaching, latterly as assistant head of Sir John Lawes school, five years ago. It is a profession which runs in his family; his wife, son and daughter all earning their living ‘in the classroom’.

He came to Harpenden in 1975, joining the staff at what was then Manland Secondary School, as a PE and English teacher. He concedes that back then it was a relatively low-achieving comprehensive, but that in recent years it has progressed to more than hold its own with the town’s other secondary schools.  
Chris emphasises the job satisfaction he has derived from teaching, particularly in watching often fairly guileless 11-year olds develop, over five or six years, into fully-rounded and educationally well-qualified members of society. 

It is, he says, a tough but very rewarding job, but with the many rewards having to be earned, not least through the need to establish an ethos of mutual respect between teacher and youngster. He maintains that all children, from all social backgrounds, want to learn - something on which a good teacher can build, albeit sometimes involving ‘risks’, which serve to add spice to the challenges.
That, in its turn, says Chris, is reflected in students’ behaviour.  He pays credit to Harpenden’s junior schools whose pupils, having reached the age of 11 or so, almost invariably show themselves eager to pursue their studies when they embark on their secondary education.
Group Objectives
The group's remit is pre-school, schools, and other education matters.
A main focus has been the intractable question of 'schools places' The Working Group is endeavouring, in alliance with the Harpenden Parents Group and local councillors, to consider improvements in the system.

It seems to have been going on for quite a time but at last the new secondary school, Katherine Warrington (KWS) has finally been given the go ahead by Herts County Council to be built. The site for the new school is in the fields east of Common Lane, off the Lower Luton Road in Batford.

KWS will be the fourth secondary school in Harpenden and will eventually have capacity for 1,150 students. The proposal also includes plans for playing fields, tennis courts and a multi- use games area that will also benefit the local community. Hopefully the new school will put an end to the annual disappointment of Harpenden children who are not allocated a place at a Harpenden secondary school.

Although many parents are delighted by the decision there are still concerns regarding traffic congestion in the Batford area that is already very busy during the morning and evening rush hour. KWS, along with all the other schools in Harpenden, both Junior and secondary, will be working to support transport issues by working with their students in raising awareness of Road safety issues and encouraging more students to walk, cycle and bus (secondary) safely to school.

Harpenden is a special town and its children enjoy a wonderful education at both junior and secondary levels. The new school, under the Headship of Mr Tony Smith, will work tirelessly to deliver an outstanding education and provide its students with the opportunity to further their careers and lives when they leave school.

Educationally this is a very exciting time for Harpenden and its young children.
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.'