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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hertfordshire County Council in the hot seat... (or proof, if you need it, that SchoolGuru offers a valuable service)

At SchoolGuru, we work hard to ensure that parents have the most accurate and up to date information available. Many of you have told us that you can’t get the information that you need from Hertfordshire County Council. We put them to the test and emailed a series of questions to Justin Donovan, Director of Education and Early Intervention. He’s paid £115,000 a year (from your money) to help parents (like you). His unedited responses are below. If you need further clarification, why not drop him an email at justin.donovan@hertscc.gov.uk –  we're sure he’d be delighted to hear from you.

SchoolGuru: Do you have any tips for parents wondering which schools to put down on their application forms?

Justin Donovan: Parents should carefully read the literature available at www.hertsdirect.org/admissions also available in the annually published admissions booklets.

SchoolGuru: How can parents avoid being allocated a school that they haven't expressed a preference for?

Justin Donovan: Parents should carefully read the literature available at www.hertsdirect.org/admissions also available in the annually published admissions booklets.

SchoolGuru: What are the most common mistakes that people make on their application forms?

 Justin Donovan: Parents should carefully read the literature available at www.hertsdirect.org/admissions also available in the annually published admissions booklets.

SchoolGuru: What percentage of application forms are incorrectly filled in (eg with parents providing an incorrect email address or forgetting to mention a sibling link etc)?

Justin Donovan: Unfortunately we do not hold this information.

SchoolGuru: What percentage of parents successfully use the Continuing Interest system to get a school that's preferable to the one they were initially allocated?

Justin Donovan: A significant number of children are placed through continuing interest every year, but percentages change year on year and within each process and for each school.

SchoolGuru: We get lots of people asking if they can rent a flat close to the school that they want, to increase their chances of getting a place. If they live in the rented flat, and then move back to the family home after allocation day, is this allowed?

Justin Donovan: Parents must use the child's permanent home address. More information about the address to be used is available at www.hertsdirect.org/admissions, and in the annually published admissions booklets.

SchoolGuru: What measures are in place to prevent fraudulent applications (e.g. using a childminder's address)?

Justin Donovan: Significant measures are in places, at various stages of the allocation process and afterwards, to help identify fraudulent applications.

SchoolGuru: How many fraudulent applications have you identified over the past year?

Justin Donovan: For the 2010/11 admissions round there were approximately 80 investigations into potential fraudulent applications and 500+ random address checks. 

SchoolGuru: How many of these children (i.e. whose parents applied fraudulently) then had their places withdrawn at the schools they were offered?

Justin Donovan: In excess of three places were withdrawn in 2010/11.

SchoolGuru: If someone out of county applies for an undersubscribed school, would they be given priority over an in-county applicant who hasn't got any of their preferences (but didn't apply for the school)?

Justin Donovan: Admission arrangements can not prioritise applicants according to a child's home Local Authority, that would be illegal.

So, a big thank you to Mr Donovan – and good luck finding the information he refers to! Alternatively, you’ll find all the information you need in an accessible format on this website – or members can just email us with any questions. 

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