Council ‘massaging’ Hitchin school figures
A COUNCIL has been accused of “massaging figures” to fit its own agenda for doubling the size of a primary school.
A document seen by the Comet shows a discrepancy between statistics it published last year and those now being given to residents and parents.
Herts County Council is proposing to expand Samuel Lucas JMI School in Hitchin as it claims there is a shortage of primary school places in the town.
But other figures recently published by the authority – and which have now been removed from its website – differ to those given in a consultation letter.
The consultation letter says there are 428 reception places, at an undisclosed number of schools in the town.
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But the other figures, which the county council now refuses to reveal to the public, stated there are 558 reception places – 23 per cent more than those given in the consultation letter.
Those figures also show there is no unsatisfied demand for school places in the Hitchin South area – which includes Samuel Lucas JMI – over the next five years, contrary to what residents are being told.
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It does, however, say there is need for an additional form of entry in Hitchin North.
Campaigners have argued Oughton Primary School – in that area – would be more suited to an expansion.
Resident Robin Dartington, who disclosed the figures, said: “They seem to show HCC is massaging the statistics to prove what they want to prove, that they should enlarge Samuel Lucas JMI.”
The original figures also forecast predictions until 2017/18 – two years more than those disclosed in the consultation letter.
And they show demand across the town is falling, not rising as claimed.
“Apart from concealing the data for 2016/17 and 2017/18, HCC has also based the consultation forecast on some unexplained selection of the 29 schools in Hitchin total, so lower the number of reception places available form 558 in the full forecast to 428 quoted in the consultation letter,” added Mr Dartington.
Although the council has reversed recommendations by its education panel and agreed to hold a fresh consultation into the proposals, there are also concerns the wider town is not being consulted.
The consultation, which began last week, has seen consultation letters sent to the west of Hitchin, but not the rest of the town.
To take part in the consultation, visit https://consult.hertsdirect.org/consultations
A further public meeting has also been arranged for 7pm at the school on Wednesday, October 17.