ALMOST 500 extra secondary school places have been provided by Hertfordshire County Council in a bid to ease this year's transfer problems.

Five secondary schools in St Albans and Harpenden will take an additional 491 pupils between them across all five years, from age 11 to 16, from this September.

It is hoped the extra places being offered at Verulam, Marlborough, Francis Bacon, Sir John Lawes and Roundwood Park schools will help ease the secondary transfer crisis that has resulted in children being allocated places as far afield as Watford, Hatfield and Hemel Hempstead.

Among the worst affected are pupils at primary school pupils in the south of the city, who are frequently allocated places at Nicholas Breakspear in Colney Heath Lane, a voluntarily-aided Catholic school.

County Councillor Rosie Sanderson, who represents Colney Heath ward, called for the current system to be reviewed to prevent voluntary aided religious schools being considered as alternatives for children who have not received places at their three preferred schools.

In Redbourn, anguished parents, facing yet another lengthy battle to get their children into a Harpenden school, accused the county council of "inherent discrimination".

For the second year running, the council's secondary transfer rules have split the village in two, leaving 13 children from Redbourn JM School allocated places at a school in Hemel Hempstead, rather than the three listed locally.

Now, angry parents have joined with governors from the Long Cutt school to form the Redbourn Secondary Transfer Action Group (STAG), to call for changes to the system.

In a statement, Redbourn STAG said: "Our goal is to remove the inherent discrimination against Redbourn children and the children of other village communities suffering the same anguish from the secondary transfer rules."

It has accused the council of breaking its promise to review the rules for 2002/3, which were approved last week after councillors were told it was too late to make any changes.

They are now considering mounting a legal challenge against the county council, claiming its rules could breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr Robert Jones, a representative of the group, said: "We will be collecting signatures to petition the county council for a change in the rules.

"We also want to make contact with similar action groups set up in other Hertfordshire villages with the aim of gaining a larger voice."

For more information about STAG, contact Mr Jones at