Expansion plans not being backed ‘because it’s a Catholic school’ claim

Headteacher Mairead Waugh

Headteacher Mairead Waugh - Credit: Archant

A SCHOOL in Hatfield is facing a chronic lack of spaces – but campaigners are claiming County Hall is refusing to fund expansion plans because it is a Catholic school.

The head at St Philip Howard Catholic Primary School said demand is growing as Hatfield expands, and youngsters are being separated from their siblings.

Welwyn Hatfield’s MP Grant Shapps has also called for the problem to be addressed.

Head Mairead Waugh told the WHT: “It is extremely distressing for the nursery pupils, who are denied a place at the school, to see their big brothers and sisters going off to a different school from them.

“The school has to open early so parents can get to two different schools across each side of town.”

Mrs Waugh said she thought Herts County Council was not keen to expand the premises because it is a Catholic school.

“We don’t cater for the whole community, although non-Catholic pupils also attend the school, that is why we have not expanded,” she said.

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“But as Hatfield continues to grow in size, demand for the only Catholic school in the area is increasing.”

The school accepts 45 new children a year, but Mrs Waugh wants to increase to 60.

To do this, it would need four new classrooms.

Eroms Ubebe’s three-year-old daughter goes to the school’s nursery, but has been denied a place for reception class.

The 39-year-old telecommunications consultant told the WHT: “We are in limbo. Do we move away from the town nearer to another school, or do we home school her?

“The Catholic community in Hatfield is quite big and we are not given the same opportunities as others.”

MP Grant Shapps attended a parent teacher meeting and has now raised the issue with HCC.

He said: “I appreciate how frustrating it is for parents and their children and absolutely support their call for an increase in the number of places.”

A spokeswoman for the county council said: “Hertfordshire has experienced a significant rise in the demand for primary school places in recent years.

“In Hatfield we have provided an additional 105 extra places through the expansion of two local schools and the establishment of the Hatfield Community Free School.

“As the need continues to grow we have supported St Philip Howard Primary School’s submission of a bid for Targeted Basic Need grant funding to the Department of Education to enable it to expand.

“The decision now lies with the DfE and its assessment against its own criteria.”