The issue of increasing demand for primary school places is being experienced across many areas of Hertfordshire, including Harpenden. This issue is taken very seriously and the County Council has responded by creating a significant number of additional permanent and temporary places for the last academic year. Creating these school places is not always straight forward and officers are required to work within the constraints that already exist in relation to the school sites, within the finite resources that are shared across the county taking account of forecast demand in the future. Officers do understand the strength of feeling locally that children should, as far as possible, be able to attend a local school of preference. Now that confirmation has been received that the Harpenden Free School will be open and will be offering 60 reception places in the next academic year, alongside a proposed additional 15 places at The Grove Infant and Junior Schools, the number of available places is clearer. This will provide an additional 75 additional places in Harpenden. It is acknowledged that the Free School has admission rules which are not fully geographically based and it is too early to be able to fully assess the impact of those free school places will have in meeting local demand for local schools. To this end, officers continue to look at all opportunities for further expansion (both temporary and permanent), in the context of need within this area, all other areas and the financial resources available. In Harpenden, it is the case that over the past three years additional primary school places have been made available and importantly all reception age children have been allocated a place within the town. The process of allocation was specifically designed to ensure that all parents had equal opportunity to express their preferences for all the places on offer, including additional places, and this was the subject of communication with the Harpenden Parents Group. County wide statistics have been compiled this year based on the position after the first continuing interest run on 14th May 2012, i.e. after an additional 13 f.e. were provided across Hertfordshire, which included 60 places in Harpenden. At this stage of the process there had been 483 applications from Harpenden parents and only 11 children were given non ranked allocations. 97.72% of parents were allocated a preferred school by 17 May 2012 and the 11 children given a non ranked allocation were all offered places within the town. Nursery admissions are not coordinated by HCC, with equivalent free places provided in the private, voluntary and independent sector (PVI). Currently there are 336 maintained 3 and 4 year old places and 615 PVI places, and an estimated 937 3 and 4 year olds in Harpenden. Overall, there are more places available than children. In 2012, 348 Harpenden families applied for a place at a maintained nursery school or class in Harpenden and all but 8 (4 of which did not live in Harpenden at the time of application) now have a place at one of the schools applied for.