The first new secondary school to open in Wokingham borough in more than half a century, the Bohunt Wokingham School at Arborfield Green, is set to add a sixth form next year.
Wokingham Borough Council, the local education authority, is expected to approve the Bohunt Education Trust’s proposal to improve students’ higher education choices.
It will discuss the expansion at an extraordinary meeting of its decision-making executive tomorrow (22 March). It is recommended for approval by officers and, if it gets the go-ahead, it will also require permission from Nadhim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education.
The scheme would create sixth-form capacity in the rural south of Wokingham borough, which currently has two schools serving the 11 to 16 age groups – the other being Oakbank Secondary School at Ryeish Green in Shinfield parish.
A quality education within easy reach
At the moment, most students attending the Bohunt School continue their education at other schools and colleges outside the borough, so the expansion would allow more of them to remain nearer home.
It will also guarantee further education for future generations, as places for former Bohunt students in other boroughs could become more limited as their own sixth-form populations increase over time.
The new sixth-form would be provided through a partnership between the Bohunt Education Trust, which has run the secondary since it opened in 2016 (pictured above) and will contribute at least £2 million to the project, and the council.
The sixth-form provision would most likely open in September 2023 and would offer both academic subjects as A-levels and their vocational equivalents. Its size would depend on several factors but is expected to be between 200 and 300 places and likely nearer the latter.
The expansion would also create more places for 11- to 16-year-olds and improve the school’s provision for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND).
The new places for under 16s will help to ensure that more children living around the school can be admitted at a time when the need for new secondary places is rapidly increasing. Meanwhile, the improved SEND provision will help to educate more children and young people with additional needs within the borough.
The scheme would also need planning permission to expand the building from two storeys to three. As part of the planning process, the council would consider any additional traffic impact and possible ways of mitigating this. To ensure it served the community first and foremost, admissions from outside the school could be limited to 15 students.
Listening to residents’ needs – and meeting them
Cllr Graham Howe, executive member for children’s services, said: “We were delighted to receive this proposal from the trust, which is very much in line with our own vision, and we hope to take it to the next stage while working in partnership.
“Enriching lives and championing outstanding education are one of our key priorities and the creation of a sixth form at Bohunt School will allow more children and young people to enjoy these benefits close to where they live.
“We also know from consulting our residents that there is strong support for this idea so we will work closely with the trust to find a way to make it happen.
“By creating more sixth-form places within the borough we’ll also make it easier for students to travel by walking, wheeling, cycling or public transport, which will support healthier lifestyles and help us do all we can to become a net-zero carbon producer by the end of the decade.”
Neil Strowger, trust leader at Bohunt Education Trust said: “We are committed to ensuring students have every opportunity to succeed and, to this end, we are always looking at ways to develop our offer for students, our staff and our wider school community.
“We are thrilled to be on the verge of being able to offer this new provision at Bohunt School, which is so well supported and needed by the Wokingham community and will mark BET’s third sixth form.
“Six years ago, the site of Bohunt Wokingham was planned with scope for a substantial increase in capacity. Since then, we have explored design options, and offered a significant contribution towards the construction costs from our own reserves, to enable us to offer high-quality, post-16 education to students and allow them to fulfil their potential locally.”
The school’s expansion will also enable it to offer 30 additional places for year 7 and possibly more, depending on demand, which could start from September 2022.
Building communities while making developers pay
Bohunt School lies on the council’s major development at Arborfield, which was allocated under the authority’s Local Plan for the borough’s future growth, and was funded by contributions from developers building new homes in the area.
It is part of an investment package of almost £100 million in new schools including the relocated Farley Hill Primary School, which opened in modern purpose-built premises on the development last year.
Another new primary will open in this new community when the need arises and the Local Plan has provided two other primaries at Shinfield and Montague Park in South Wokingham town. Three more are set to follow at Matthewsgreen, North Wokingham, Spencers Wood and a second location in South Wokingham.
This is all part of the council’s commitment to building integrated communities equipped with all the services and amenities they need.
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