By Jupiter! Free school bid for Highfield site

MCHG 12-844     The closed-down Jupiter Drive School, Hemel Hempstead.
MCHG 12-844 The closed-down Jupiter Drive School, Hemel Hempstead.

Plans to open a new ‘free’ school in Hemel Hempstead’s Highfield district are being drawn up just five years after education bosses axed three of the town’s primaries because of falling numbers.

The wheels are being put in motion to open a new school in 2014 on the site of Jupiter Drive Primary..

The project is being led by West Herts Community Free Schools Trust in partnership with Herts County Council.

During a public meeting about the proposal onThursday, the trust’s Gill Jones said: “In both Watford and Hemel Hempstead in 2014 there will be demand at reception age that can’t be met by the current provision.”

The new Hemel Hempstead school would take in two forms at reception level and more little ones would be accepted as that first year group progresses up the school, becoming full in 2020.

Jupiter Drive Primary was one of three sites in the town closed down by council chiefs in 2007.

Since then millions of pounds have been spent expanding other primary schools to meet a rising demand.

At Broadfield Primary School headteacher Matthew Heasman, who has concerns about the impact the new school will have on his pupil numbers, said: “It is going to be difficult for the parents and the staff who had the upheaval at the time to understand why another school is being opened just a few years after one was closed but I do understand the vagaries of pupil numbers.”

At the meeting Mrs Jones, whose organisation opened a new school in Hatfield last month, assured headteachers: “This isn’t about taking children from other schools.

“We see free schools as part of the local family of schools, not being something that is completely separate or in competition.”

A County Hall spokesman said: “The number of primary school places required in the east of Hemel Hempstead has increased rapidly in recent years. This sudden increased need for school places is reflected nationally and in other parts of the county. The county council has retained the buildings on the Jupiter Drive site to allow us to respond to such an upturn in demand.”

Following the meeting county councillor for the area Ron Tindall said: “I remain unconvinced but will go forward with an open mind in the interests of the children.”

The proposal will be submitted to the Department for Education at the end of this year. Visit to find out more