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Town council concern over provision of school places for new Stortford estates

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The Stortford Fields development under construction inside the A120 Bishops Stortford bypass Picture: Richard Morris
The Stortford Fields development under construction inside the A120 Bishops Stortford bypass Picture: Richard Morris

Concerns have been voiced over the"timelyprovision of school places for the new residents of Stortford Fields and St Michael's Hurst.

At a meeting of the town council’s localism and strategy committee, Cllr Gary Jones, who is also deputy leader of East Herts Council and its executive member for economic development, raised the alarm.

A six-form-of-entry (6FE) secondary school – 180 pupils a year – and two primaries are planned for the estates’ new families by education authority Herts County Council. The larger primary – 3FE with capacity for 630 pupils and 45 nursery places – is planned next to St Michael’s Hurst on former allotments owned by the town council.

The principles of a multi-million-pound sale deal have been agreed with HCC, although some aspects remain to be resolved, but chief executive James Parker told the committee: “I think the coast is clear to sell.”

A 2FE primary is planned to the west of the 2,200-house Stortford Fields development. Children from both primaries will be able to move up to the new secondary, which will straddle the A120 bypass.

The latter, on a 23.8-acre (9.6ha) campus, was originally expected to admit its first students last September, but construction of any of the schools has yet to begin.

Cllr Jones told the committee: “The first of the primary schools for Bishop’s Stortford North is proposed to open in September 2020, with the secondary school a couple of years after.”

He said that with two of the new homes already occupied, he had concerns about the “timely” delivery of school places over the “next months and years”.

Cllr Terry Douris, HCC’s executive member for education, libraries and localism, said: “Hertfordshire County Council has been working hard to plan for new school places to meet the needs of the families moving into the new homes within Bishop’s Stortford North.

“We are planning 5FE (form of entry) of primary provision and a new 6FE secondary school within the development.

“Working with the developers and the town council, we have agreed suitable sites for the new schools; outline planning permission has been given for the secondary school and detailed planning permission for both the primary schools.

“The timing of the new schools is linked to the developers’ programme and we are in dialogue with the developers about when we can access the school sites to start building.

“Contingency plans are in place for new families who require a school place, in advance of the new schools opening, with existing schools in the town until the new schools open.

“All children moving into the area, whether the town or the new development, will be treated equitably under the county council’s in-year admission processes. A number of families living in Bishop’s Stortford choose schools outside the immediate area for their children and some families moving into the new development may make the same choice.”

Information for parents applying for a school place in the area is available at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/inyear.

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