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Education & Leisure

The group's remit is pre-school, schools, library leisure and sports facilities, parks, allotments, rural access, civic halls, arts and entertainment.

This 'virtual' group has fourteen members bringing a very wide-ranging experience to the consideration of these issues.

GROUP MEMBERSHIP

GROUP OBJECTIVES

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.

The Group is, on behalf of the Society, a stakeholder in consultations about Harpenden library and has held constructive talks with senior county library officials. It has also gained representation on the Harpenden Public Halls Users Forum and the Rothamsted Park equivalent.

The Group is keen to further items raised on the Society's 'wish-list', including the concept of an arts/culture centre for the town, the modernisation of play equipment at Rothamsted Park and a complete renewal of the Public Hall.

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.'

The Harpenden Society Welcomes the Plan for a New Secondary School