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4th Jul, 2022

Delay to opening of new school has residents reeling

A DELAY to plans for an ‘essential’ new school at Bishop’s Tachbrook have left parents and residents reeling.

The school, which will primarily take pupils from the new Oakley Grove development, will not be ready in time for the new school term in 2023 – its original proposed completion date.

Despite receiving planning permission in 2019, issues have arisen with the transfer of the site from the landowner.

And Warwickshire County Council (WCC) has now said the school will not be ready to take pupils until September 2024.

In the meantime, the council is set to decide whether to provide a temporary portable cabin style school or send new starters to existing schools through a process known as ‘bulging’.

But residents – many who have recently moved to new-builds on the estate – fear the second option could impact their children’s education and also put too much pressure on existing schools.

Parish council chairman Matthew Greene has written to WCC leader Izzy Seccombe urging her to consider the temporary school option – estimated to cost some £1.5million.

He said: “What is clear from the conversations we have had with residents is that the school is an essential part of what will make our community work for themselves and their families.

“They have known that they will have a school within walking distance from September 2023 and this has been a huge comfort to those already here and a huge draw to those relocating to this area.

“It was therefore a shock to residents to discover the school may not be ready until September 2024.

“Given the length of time that has elapsed since the planning permission was granted, councillors and residents were disappointed that the project is behind schedule.

“Whilst a number of factors will undoubtedly feed into the ultimate decision, it was clear that there has been little thought as to the practicality and specifics of delivering option one, whilst option two had an air of being the path of least resistance.”

A dad-of-two whose eldest daughter was due to start at the new school next year, told the Observer a lot of people had made life choices based on there being a new school ready in 2023.

He added: “If they go with bulging option, it’s not like it’ll be for just the first year – they will permanently be squeezed into that school and it still could be extra one or two classes per school. It’s very concerning that many schools are already oversubscribed and pushed to the limit.

“It’s a ridiculous solution where no one benefits. People are taking a hit based on the council’s failings.

“Although not desirable, at least with the first option, children continue at a school they’ve become a part of.”

The county council has assured neither option is off the table.

A spokesperson said: “No decisions have been made as to the schooling of year seven students who will eventually take up places at the new Oakley School in Bishop’s Tachbrook. There are a range of options that are currently being discussed at the highest level and with key strategic stakeholders, including local parish councils.

“As the Education Authority, WCC will be seeking a solution that minimises pupil disruption while avoiding putting strains on existing settings wherever possible.”

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