£4m expansion of Hitchin primary school given green light

There will be extra school places at William Ransom in Hitchin from September 2016.

There will be extra school places at William Ransom in Hitchin from September 2016. - Credit: Daniel Wilson

An ‘outstanding’ Hitchin primary school will be opening its doors to another 22 pupils from September next year.

The expansion of William Ransom Primary School on Stuart Drive – which retained its top level status after a visit by Ofsted inspectors earlier this year – is part of a wider investment of £13 million by Hert County Council to increase school places.

But the school has already been pressing for improved facilities to replace ageing temporary classrooms, and there are also concerns about highways issues.

Head Mary Driver, contacted by the Comet yesterday at the top of Mount Snowdon in Wales during a school trip, said: “We’re happy to have continued dialogue with County Hall to get the best proposals we can for our school, but the issues still remain.

“We’re concerned with traffic matters, and anything which will compromise the excellent education we offer our wonderful pupils.

“We certainly do not want anything to pressure the economic stability of the school.”

Hitchin MP Peter Lilley, who has been backing the school’s investment campaign, said: “We need to increase the capacity of local schools, and it is a good thing.

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“Hitchin has a number of very good schools and it is right we continue to offer the opportunity for parents to send their children to good schools.

“It will also attract a number of young professional families to the town through having very good schools in the area.

“My impression is William Ransom were happy to be able to respond to the extra 22 places.

“I have been a supporter of William Ransom’s plea for capital maintenance funding to ensure permanent buildings are built to replace the 30 year-old mobile classrooms no longer fit for purpose.”

The estimated cost of the work at William Ransom is around £4m, and after Monday’s approval at County Hall further public consultation will take place.

A Herts County Council spokesman said: “Any decision will be conditional upon planning permission.

The building proposals, which would include any highways measures deemed necessary, will be subject to a separate statutory town planning process, during which members of the public also have the opportunity to give their views.”

Recent expansion of Samuel Lucas JMI on the other side of Hitchin in Gaping Lane sparked a wave of objections on traffic grounds before eventually going ahead.

Councillor Chris Hayward, County Hall’s cabinet member for education said: “We want all children to have access to a good education and that means ensuring the right number of school places in the right location.

“There are 10,000 more children under the age of four in Hertfordshire today than a decade ago.

“Despite the continuing financial pressures we face, we will continue to invest to ensure where the county’s population grows we build the appropriate infrastructure.”