More than 94 per cent of Herts children have been allocated a place at one of their preferred schools this year, despite a large increase in the number of applications.
More places in primary and secondary schools are still required, however, and parents can still apply for places through a ‘continuing interest’ process which features the newly-approved Jupiter Community Free School planned for Hemel Hempstead.
The school admissions team at Herts County Council has processed more than 18,300 applications this year. The total of 17,700 Hertfordshire families will be informed of their offer of a school place today or tomorrow.
The number of children applying for a place in primary schools across the county has risen by 595 this year, with a total of 15,454 applications for reception places received.
Despite this, more than 14,000 children have been allocated a primary school ranked among their preferences. There has been an increase of more than 350 in the number of children allocated their first-choice school compared to last year.
According to a council spokesman, there are at least 10,000 more children under four years old in the county today, compared to a decade ago.
The council has spent spent more than £100 million to provide an additional 2,000 reception places in Herts, and a further £20 million has already been committed to provide 250 extra permanent places for September 2015.
In order to ensure that additional places were available to match the demand, some potential expansions were identified but were not finalised until all primary applications for 2014 had been received. Across the county, 10 existing schools will now be admitting extra pupils, though none of these are in Dacorum.
Parents must apply direct to the county council for one of 60 available places at the new Jupiter Community Free School, along with two other new free schools planned for Watford.
Council director of education and early intervention Justin Donovan said: “Starting primary school or moving on to a junior or middle school is an important step and we are pleased that even more children have been allocated a ranked school this year, despite the increase in the number of applications.
“Across the county as a whole there are enough reception places for Hertfordshire children, but our schools with vacancies are not in the right locations to cater for the increasing demand for reception places in other towns and communities.
“This year, if a significant number of children in an area cannot be offered a place at one of their ranked schools and the nearest alternative school place is in another town or village, then places are not offered at this stage and will instead be offered next month through the continuing interest process. This strategy means that some applicants will not be offered a place on allocation day.
“Although allocations for these families will be delayed for a month, I am confident that every child not currently offered a school place will be offered one at the first run of continuing interest in the week commencing May 12.
“I recognise this is always a difficult time for parents but firmly believe that delaying allocations for a small number of families is preferable to allocating a place at a school outside the local area.
“The decision to add places at the continuing interest stage was taken because confirmation of these new places became available after the application process closed, and we want to make sure that all families have equal access to them. It is vitally important that all families are treated equally within a clear and transparent process.”
All parents and carers already offered a school place must respond by 30 April 2014.