School discussions continue with 250 days to go before they are due to openBy Jon Nurse
January 18, 2013
Discussions continue over who will run two new primary schools in the borough – with less than 250 days to go until they open their doors for classes.
Wokingham Borough Council had hoped to announce the education providers for schools in Smith’s Walk in Woosehill and Winnersh Farm before the deadline for primary school place applications yesterday.
But with no deals secured, they may be forced to seek academy providers.
The clock is ticking to have three primaries in Woosehill, Winnersh and Charvil open in September, and parents will soon be able to apply for places at the schools.
Planning applications for the schools at Winnersh Farm off Woodward Close; land adjacent to the Acorn Centre in Fernlea Drive, Woosehill, and East Park Farm in Park Lane, Charvil, were submitted last week and are available for comment.
The Woosehill school would sit along the northern boundary of The Acorn Centre. The single form entry school would have six classrooms as well a reception class, food science room, library, group room and a hall.
The Winnersh school will have similar facilities and sit in the North West corner of the farm site. All will eventually take 210 pupils.
Oakbank Free School principal Nick Dorey thinks the sites can be ready in time, but is warning planners not to reduce the quality and lose parents’ confidence if the process becomes rushed.
Mr Dorey, who helped set up Oakbank in Spencers Wood, said: “They are under a very tight timescale but it can be done.
“It’s a matter of how much time and research they throw at it and having a solution that is appealing for the families concerned.
“What you don’t want is for it to be done in a way that is so hurried parents are going to think they won’t get a good deal for their children.”
The Piggott School was chosen to run the Charvil primary last month and Councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for children’s services, had hoped to confirm the other providers by Tuesday.
A Wokingham Borough Council spokesman said: “The two other sites – Smith’s Walk at Woosehill and at Winnersh Farm – are also actively involved in the process to select a education provider.
“We’re in discussions with two existing schools in the borough about offering provision in these areas. If local education providers cannot be found, we will be procuring an academy provider in line with national guidelines. We will know in the next few weeks whether this option is needed.”
Parents expressed concerns over the limitations of beginning the schools with a single form, but Mr Dorey – whose school opened with three Year Seven classes – has found people feel it is an attractive proposition. “The school will grow with them and there’s an appeal to that,” he said. “You want to have older role models and primary schools use older pupils a lot.”
Parents will be able to apply for places at the new schools soon, which could supersede any place their children are offered in April.