To work positively and collaboratively with local planning authorities to help ensure that the educational needs of the Parish are met, principally that there are sufficient school places available to meet its needs; and to identify and resolve key issues relating to developments intended to create, expand or alter our schools – or impacting on existing schools.
One of the key principles underpinning our Neighbourhood Plan is that the children of the Parish represent the future of our community. It follows that their educational, health and social needs are of prime concern to us, and at the heart of our planning deliberations. The practical impact of any proposed developments within, or adjacent to the Parish, on those needs must be identified and closely examined if our children are to have a sustainable future within our community.
Wymondley Parish is currently served by four nearby junior schools, three of which are in neighbouring parishes. Children from our parish would be able to attend any of these schools subject, of course, to space requirements and other relevant criteria such as its Published Admission Number (PAN), i.e. the number of pupils in each year group that the admission authority has agreed will be admitted without causing problems for the school. These schools are:
A. Wymondley Junior Mixed and Infant (JMI) School, situated in Siccut Road, Little Wymondley, Hitchin, SG4 7HN is our parish school: It is a mixed, all-ability school, currently with 109 pupils from 4 to 11 years, grouped according to age. It has a PAN of 15 children per year group, and is currently running at almost full capacity, so would be unable to accommodate a significant increase in demand for places – a fact which has already been recognised by NHDC. The school is situated in spacious grounds surrounded by hedges and trees. It has a large sports field, a hard play area, football, netball and rounders pitches; a nature reserve with a pond and a variety of gardens, including a set of raised beds where the children grow vegetables. Ofsted has recognised that “pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is reflected in the school’s atmosphere of tolerance and harmony.”
B. Graveley Primary School, situated in Ashwell Common, Gravely, Hitchin, SG4 7LJ – is a small, 0.5 form entry village primary school, sited in our neighbouring small residential parish of Graveley. It has been at the heart of the community since 1874, and focuses on academic, moral, social and spiritual development of its pupils. It is currently operating at full capacity, with 110 pupils from 4 to 11 years, grouped according to age, with a PAN of 16 children per year group. Its catchment area has extended recently beyond Graveley village into the local area, including Great Ashby and Stevenage and its Old Town.
C. St Ippolyts Church of England Aided Primary School, situated in Ashbrook Lane, Mill End, Hitchin, SG4 7PB – in St Ippolyts Parish: Founded in 1847, St Ippolyts Primary is a Voluntary Aided Church of England School enjoying strong links with St Ippolyts Church and within the Diocese of St Albans. Its principal aim is to provide the best possible education for each individual child, underpinned by Christian Values. It operates on the basis that each child is unique, and seeks to provide academic, emotional, social and spiritual support for each one, working in partnership with parents and families. It wants its pupils to be spirited individuals who embrace challenge, think creatively, value achievement and strive to be the best they can be. Each pupil is encouraged to contribute actively to its community and to support others. The school currently has 153 pupils, from 5 to 11 years - grouped according to age, with a PAN of 20 children per year group. Its catchment area is essentially the St Ippolyts Parish boundary, although children from outside the Parish can attend. It is currently operating at full capacity and unable to admit any more children.
D. Kingshott School, Stevenage Road, St Ippolyts, Hitchin, Hertfordshire, SG4 7JX - a private preparatory school in St Ippolyts Parish: Kingshott School was founded in 1931, initially as a small boarding school for boys in Oakfield House - a country house built in 1859. (It is believed that the school’s name derives from King Henry VIII, as the area was part of his hunting ground.) In 1964 the last boarders left; and the first girls arrived in 1983. The school has expanded steadily over the years, and is now a thriving preparatory school with 408 pupils, which offers admission to any child from age 3 to 13 who the Headmaster believes will have a happy and fulfilling time at the school and therefore benefit from the type of education offered. The furthest south is currently Welwyn and furthest north is Ashwell, but pupils are mainly from Hitchin, Letchworth and Stevenage. Consequently, although outside our Parish, it is possible for children from the Parish to attend; and it currently has scope to take more children.
Attendance at these schools is determined by a series of admission rules applied by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) . Applications at Wymondley JMI School are all processed by the HCC Admissions Team. Children are submitted at the beginning of the school year in which they are five.
The Parish does not have any nursery or secondary school facilities within walking distance. In this instance we have concentrated above on the schools close by, which do not truly reflect the needs of the Parish, or parishioners who are dependent upon school facilities available in local towns accessed by road.
A key issue for Wymondley Parish is undoubtedly the extent to which any future development will affect our children’s ability to attend their parish school (or the nearby ones). Questions arise not only in terms of whether there will be sufficient places to meet demand, but whether children will be able to get to and from school safely, without inconvenience, and without greater risk to their health and safety from increased traffic or on-street parking – or from increased flood risk in the area.
Undeniably, major parking problems (and related traffic) issues already exist near our schools, principally arising from parents dropping-off and collecting children. (70% of our survey respondents indicated they wished to see general improvements to traffic management, i.e. vehicles, parking facilities etc.) Wymondley JMI School is not on the main road through the village, but there would undoubtedly be a knock-on effect if traffic volumes of through-traffic or on-street parking in the locality were increased. (Sections 11 and 16 of this Plan refer.)
Graveley School has an arrangement allowing parents to park in the car park of The Waggon and Horses P.H. opposite in the afternoons, as there is already insufficient parking space. St Ippolyts School has only six car parking spaces, which are insufficient for staff, let alone parents and visitors. Consequently, parking at peak times is such an issue that some parents arrive at the School an hour before they need to, in an attempt to obtain a parking space. Kingshott also has limited parking space in its grounds, so experiences similar parking and traffic problems. It is difficult to envisage how matters would be improved with any future increase in pupils.
Aside from those pupils who are driven to and from school, there are those who walk or use the local buses. It is vital for their health, safety and well-being that there is a convenient and reliable bus service; and safe and well-maintained footpaths for them to use en route to school. Such infrastructure and transport issues are covered generally in Section 10 of this Plan, but worthy of specific mention in relation to our schools, e.g. the lack of a complete footpath along the main road from Great Wymondley to Little Wymondley. This presents safety risks, particularly in the dark, and means some parents and children use cross-field footpaths to get safely to school – not always particularly practical in the winter months.
Wymondley JMI School is within walking distance for those pupils who live in Little Wymondley, (and possibly Great Wymondley, subject to the footpath issues mentioned above). It is also on (or near to) the Hitchin to Stevenage bus routes through Little Wymondley. Graveley School is similarly on a bus route.
Neither St Ippolyts nor Kingshott Schools are on a direct bus route, and the nearby roads are not child-friendly, so there are accompanying safety risks to pupils from both schools. The nearest bus route to St Ippolyts is on London Road, some 200 yards away; and Kingshott is on the A602, so most pupils arrive by car, although some walk. The pathways near St Ippolyts are not deemed wide enough for safe usage, thus presenting risks to safety to those using them. Any increased volumes of traffic resulting from development of the surrounding area are unlikely to improve matters.
Our recent enquiries indicate that the schools do not currently have direct problems with flooding.
The educational needs of the Parish must be met, and future needs will necessitate expansion or alteration of our existing schools, or creation of new schools to cope with an increased population. To aid learning, it is vital that our school buildings are conveniently located, (to reduce travel and the effects of it); are suitably equipped with modern technology; and provide healthy and environmentally friendly surroundings to support pupils’ mental and physical well-being.
At the present time, no new schools are planned to open in North and East Herts in 2016 and 2017. Recent enquiries of the four schools mentioned above indicate that consideration has not yet been given to expansion on current sites to accommodate any future demand arising from future development.
As stated at paragraph 12.2A above, Wymondley JMI School is the only school falling within our parish – and therefore the only one falling within the scope of our Neighbourhood Plan. An Ofsted inspection of the School was carried out on the 29th and 30th November 2012 and the previously “Satisfactory” report was raised to “Good” during this inspection. It is also important to note that, in relation to “behaviour and safety of pupils” this school was found to be “Outstanding”. It would be a concern of the school governors and management team, (as well as of parents), that any form of expansion may create pressures affecting standards.
Operating almost at full capacity, and at the limit for its current buildings, there is no doubt that any expansion to the population of the Parish – in particular the villages of Little and Great Wymondley would require investment in the School.
HCC has already recognised that the number of additional local infant and junior age children that could potentially reside in NHDC’s proposed WY1 development south of Little Wymondley could not be accommodated at the village school. Furthermore, Wymondley JMI School does not have existing development potential unless additional land is acquired or detached playing fields can be identified. Potentially, the School would need to be relocated – which would raise other issues for the Parish children.
Related issues arise in relation to secondary school children, whose ability to attend schools in Hitchin would seemingly be dependent on successful development expansion in South West Hitchin and the creation of two new secondary schools, as existing Hitchin schools would not have sufficient capacity to accommodate them.
Increased need for youth and library facilities would also need to be taken into account, and any significant residential development within the Parish is likely to generate an increase for additional services.
Other sections of this Plan provide more detailed coverage of our conclusions on issues highlighted here. In summary, our policies in relation to the impact of housing development on our children and their education are:
Policy E1: We will continue to work with authorities involved in local education and planning, to ensure that our children’s educational needs are catered for in terms of sufficient school places and Information Technology infrastructure; and that they are not adversely affected by any future development activities.
Policy E2: As part of this process we will seek to ensure that all key issues are taken into consideration, not only in our Neighbourhood Plan, but in neighbouring and cross-boundary plans and development proposals.
Policy E3: We will carefully consider, (in tandem with others), any knock-on effects of development on our children’s health, e.g. through greater emissions and reduced air quality due to increased traffic; and on their ability to continue to use existing recreational facilities – particularly those involving enjoyment of designated Green Spaces and Green Belt.