AN ANGRY father is entering politics in a bid to reform the local education system, amid deep concerns about the shortage of secondary school places in Three Rivers.
Mark Sutton, chairman of the WD3 Parents Action Group – which is campaigning for a new secondary school in Rickmansworth by 2015 – will stand as a Three Rivers District Councillor for Mill End and Maple Cross ward, representing the Christian Peoples Alliance Party (CPA), in the upcoming elections.
Mr Sutton, 46, of Hall Close, Mill End, said: "Last year, 28 per cent of children in Rickmansworth, Croxley Green, Mill End, Maple Cross and Chorleywood were not allocated any of their three secondary school preferences.
"We know that figure is set to get worse with a forecasted deficit of 259 school places by 2014/15.
"If elected, I plan to use the overwhelming support of other parents to push forward a review of the county's school admissions policy and campaign for local children to have six preferred options instead of three."
Last month the Gazette reported that Hertfordshire County Council approved £82.5million of funding for extra school places, with eight potential sites identified for a new school in Rickmansworth. It has been suggested that a consultation on the proposed locations will take place in June.
But Mr Sutton, who is father to Joshua, seven, and five-year-old Nathan, is sceptical that a new school will be built within the next five years.
He said: "There is a long way to travel yet and money has to be spent on primary school changes before secondary schools are even considered.
"Another question is whether the local population will be welcoming of a new school in their back garden."
"I doubt the new school will be built in time for my eldest son to attend."
Although Mr Sutton admits he is facing stiff competition from other ward councillors, he hopes that, simply by standing for election, he will keep them on their toes and continue to reiterate the 'severity' of the school admissions issue.
He said: "I think there is a tendency for councillors to assume they will automatically get back in but members of the main parties are often betrothed to the whip and have lost sight of public concerns."
Leader of Three Rivers District Council Ann Shaw, who is councillor for Mill End and Maple Cross, said: "We are all doing the very best we can and have been pressing the county council about the school admissions issue for some time, and progress is being made.
"Although it is very important for families, it is only one of many issues that matter to people.
"We are in a democracy and Mr Sutton is perfectly entitled to stand – that's how the system works – but every councillor wants to make a difference to the people who live in their ward.
"He should stand for the right authority – county council – if he wants to make changes to the education system."