Statement from Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency
‘Department officials have been working closely with Harpenden Secondary Education Trust to ensure Katherine Warington School will offer high quality provision upon opening. Following notice of the planning decision on 15 March 2018, we have re-evaluated whether it is possible to still open in September 2018. We have determined that delivery of a temporary school within the sports hall on the permanent site is no longer possible within the timescales available, and the opening date will be rescheduled.
Alternative options have been assessed, but the constraints of the planning conditions and the requirement to level the site would compromise the programme of works for completion of the main school buildings for the 2019/20 academic year. We will continue to work closely with both the trust and Hertfordshire County Council towards a September 2019 opening and are confident the school will make an important contribution in meeting the demand for secondary school places in Hertfordshire from 2019 and beyond.’
Harpenden Secondary Education Trust commented
It is extremely disappointing for the students and their families, and also for ourselves that the decision has had to be taken to defer the opening of Katherine Warington School. Harpenden Secondary Education Trust has always stated that it would not open on a site that provided a sub-optimal experience for the students and therefore that we would only consider opening on the permanent site. We had already agreed to compromise our vision by being prepared to open in temporary accommodation on that site, firstly when it was suggested we used the adapted permanent sports hall and subsequently by offering to open in temporary classrooms. However, due to delays in obtaining planning permission, the ability to open in the built and repurposed sports hall then in other temporary accommodation on the designated site is no longer possible.
We have considered other possible solutions to achieve a September 2018 opening, specifically temporary classrooms on one of the existing secondary school sites or other school sites and finally any repurposed building to house students for up to a whole academic year. As experienced school leaders we do not currently feel that any of the proposed compromises are acceptable. Firstly, to requisition a non-educational site anywhere within the Harpenden area is clearly unfeasible, inappropriate and absolutely contrary to the original aims of the trust to provide an excellent education experience for the students. Opening at another school outside of Harpenden does not answer our parents wish to attend schools in the locality. Finally it was not possible to accommodate enough temporary classrooms on one of the existing school sites and the additional pressures on communal spaces such as the canteen and hall, specialist classrooms and increased transport volumes would result in a second rate educational experience for Katherine Warington students and students at the host school.
We have become increasingly concerned that the experience of the first Katherine Warington School intake under these circumstances would not be comparable to that of students at the other Harpenden schools. The Trust continues to be committed to establishing a school which provides an outstanding educational experience in a learning environment that meets the needs of all the students in our care within the community we serve. We want Katherine Warington School to be a school of choice for parents and children in our community and we believe a positive experience for its first cohort will be crucial in helping us achieve that aim.
It is our intention, working with ESFA, Department for Education and HCC, to have a completed, newly built school ready for September 2019.
A spokesman for Hertfordshire County Council said:
“We note the commitment of the Harpenden Secondary Education Trust and the DfE to continue to work towards a successful opening in September 2019 and look forward to this much needed new school serving the local community. In the meantime we will work with existing schools to see whether additional places can be made available for September 2018. We expect to have this work completed by 5th April but in the meantime we would urge parents to remain on the Continuing Interest List which will be run again between 21st – 27th April ”