Jo Littlejohn 0

Berkhamsted Schools for Berkhamsted Children

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30 children have not been offered a nursery school place in Berkhamsted this year. 290 children applied, through a new online system handled directly by schools using council guidelines, and more than 10% have not been provided with a place. This not only is a repeat of last years crisis situation, where 23 children were not offered a place, but an indication that inadequate school reception places will be available in the town, unless action is taken.


A current argument by Hertfordshire County Council is that there is sufficient nursery provision through private day care nurseries and pre-schools. However, not all of these providers accept the government funding, and this somewhat contradicts a recent quote by Hertfordshire County Councillor Richard Thake, who oversees education and skills. He said:


The first years of a child’s life set the foundations for future success and we want to help parents choose the best nursery for their child.”


Parents of the 30 children who haven’t been given a place have been left by Hertfordshire County Council to sort out their own children’s nursery school education.

The options are:

  • Private day care nurseries (only some of which accept the government nursery funding;

  • Pre-schools (already over subscribed and unlikely that a child will get a place at this stage unless already attending);

  • The independent school sector (all of which have now opted out of the government funded nursery voucher scheme as of March this year);

  • Nursery schools in other towns.

With current trends, the situation will only worsen unless action is taken by Hertfordshire County Council. There are not enough reception places in Berkhamsted primary schools to take all of Berkhamsted children for 2012 and beyond.


There are currently 252 reception places in Berkhamsted (including Greenway First and Nursery School, Victoria First School, Westfield First School, Swing Gate First School and Nursery, St Thomas More Catholic Primary School, St Mary’s C of E (VA) First School and Potten End C of E First School), four of which are faith schools and accept children from out of the town, based on where they worship.


Catchment areas from 2010 to 2011 have shrunk dramatically, e.g.

  • Swing Gate First School and Nursery – from 668 metre radius to under 300 metres

  • Westfield First School – from 1000 metres to 480 metres

  • Greenway First and Nursery School – 1200 metres to 900 metres

The deficit from the nursery school application process is currently 30 children. This does not include those whose children will remain at private day care nurseries and did not apply, or those children moving into the town between now and January 2012 when the application process for reception places begins.


Based on these figures Berkhamsted is looking at a deficit of up to 80 reception places for 2012.


So how has this happened? There is clear evidence of a serious failure in communication in Hertfordshire County Council between the housing planning and school provision planning departments. Further development continues with 17 new builds on Manor Street and Bridge Street due to be completed in a few months time. The same developer has acquired two more sites in Berkhamsted and is currently working through the planning application process. Planning has been granted on Bank Mill Lane, the number of houses is yet to be confirmed, but it could be in excess of 100 houses. The site opposite Westfield school has been designated for new social housing to be built imminently.


Assumptions are being made by the planning departments as to who will be occupying these homes, e.g. two bedroom flats won’t be occupied by young families. This is a dangerous and inaccurate assumption to make. The school provision forecasting by the council is largely based on historical data and therefore does not match up with the reality of a rapidly expanding population.


Current proposals by the council to address the issue are to maintain a 60 form entry at Westfield First School rather than 30. However this is in no instance confirmed. Proposals to increase Greenway First and Nursery School from a 60 to 90 form entry have been strongly contested within the community. In spite of this, these are not long term solutions.


Attending a local school is vital for a young child’s development and future, through learning in a settled environment, forming friendships and forming a sense of belonging within their community. Surely it’s not too much to ask for a child to attend a school in their home town, and for a parent to expect equality of provision, and a reasonable journey to school in their home town.


In 2012 and beyond even more children will be sent to other towns for their nursery school and reception places unless action is taken now.

Join our ipetition on:


Join our Facebook group: Berkhamsted Parents


Sign our paper based petitions: we will be at local pre-schools and schools


Lobby our councillors Kate Maguire and Justin Donovan at: /


Lobby our local MP David Gauke at:

For further information or to help please contact:




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