A new primary school in Wokingham town will continue to await an opening date because of a lower level of demand for primary level spaces in the 2022/23 academic year than expected.
Wokingham Borough Council has postponed the opening of St Cecilia’s Church of England Primary School, off Queens Road in the Matthewsgreen area, after only a small number of applicants chose it as their first preference by the cut-off date of 16 January.
This level of demand means it wouldn’t be viable for the school to operate and it would affect the capacity of other primaries nearby. However, the aim remains to offer all local children the opportunity to be educated in the area where they live.
The council has informed the Department for Education of its decision and agreed this with The Keys Academy Trust, which will run the school. A new opening date is yet to be announced and the council expects demand to rise as families populate the area, which is why the school was built.
The council recognises that the trust has done everything it could to promote the school and attract interest, including a series of virtual and on-site open days which have taken place in recent months.
The council included the school in its admissions guide for September, as well as its online application portal, and will continue to do so. The school’s headteacher Richard Thomas may be contacted through the school’s website.
The school, which will have 210 places, also has a new 500 sq m multi-use community centre on site with two large rooms, a kitchen, outdoor space, and a new accessible toilet. An opening also remains to be confirmed but the council will do all it can to ensure residents benefit as soon as possible.
Under the development proposals, a part of the school and community centre car park has been set aside for use by the neighbourhood centre opposite, which includes a new Co-operative food store which opened on 24 February. These spaces are now available to the centre’s users.
Cllr Graham Howe, executive member for children’s services, said: “It will be a pleasure to announce the opening of St Cecilia’s Church of England Primary School, but now is not the right time – there simply isn’t enough demand.
“The Keys Academy Trust has established itself as a high-performing, trusted provider at a number of primary schools in our borough so St Cecilia’s will thrive under its leadership and we look forward to working closely together on the next steps.”
Construction of the school was funded by developers building housing on the council’s North Wokingham major development, where 2,100 new homes have been granted planning permission along with new community green spaces, the upcoming completion of the North Wokingham Distributor Road and other key amenities.
St Cecilia’s is one of seven new primaries which the authority’s Local Plan will provide as part of a multi-million pound investment package in education, along with the Bohunt secondary school at Arborfield which opened in 2016.
Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, said: “It was crucial that we built this school to serve our residents as it’s vital that we’re ready to meet the need of a growing population when it arises.
“In the meantime, we’ll look for as many opportunities as possible for the community to benefit from the development.”
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