Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Parents bid to launch school due to primary places shortage

A NEW primary school could open in Caversham next year.

A NEW primary school could open in Caversham next year.

A group of parents has submitted a bid to the Department of Education to open a free school for the Caversham Heights/Mapledurham area in September 2014.

They will find out whether their application has been successful next month.

There is an estimated shortage of 60 primary school places in north Reading. Caversham Heights does not have a school and has been adopted by Emmer Green and The Hill primaries, both of which are oversubscribed.

Free schools can be started by groups or individuals and are outside local authority control with funding provided directly by central Government. They have to be approved by the DoE.

Ruth Rosewell, director of the Heights Primary School Trust, has two daughters, Imogen, two, and Alice, one, and lives in Charlotte Close, less than half a mile from Caversham primary.

She says she moved there with schools in mind but is concerned her daughters may not get in, which she says is “ridiculous”.

“I thought a new school would kind of ease the pressure because people should not be worried like this,” she said. The trust wants a school within walking distance of pupils’ homes and maximum class sizes of 25.

Its 180-page bid, which included a letter of support from Reading MP Rob Wilson, was submitted to the DoE in January and members of the trust were invited to be interviewed by three free school specialists and a primary school teacher last month.

Mrs Rosewell, a former economics teacher, said: “We shouldn’t be in this situation really. We could sit around and moan about it but that’s not going to change anything. Everybody knows there is a shortage of places. This is the only solution and, as parents, this is the way we can take control.”

If the bid is approved, the DoE would award the trust a £220,000 grant and appoint two project managers, one to help with recruiting a headteacher and deciding the curriculum and another to help with locating a suitable site.

Mrs Rosewell, 38, said: “Our key issue is location as there aren’t that many sites available. Our ideal site is Mapledurham Estate, which is looking to sell some of its land, but there is also a company which could move to Reading so we could use the existing space.”

If the trust is unable to identify a suitable building in time, it plans to use temporary classrooms. In its first year, the school would have classes from reception age to year three and then expand to year six.

Ruth Perry, headteacher of Caversham Primary School, has agreed to chair the governors, which the trust hopes will give parents confidence in choosing the school.

Mrs Rosewell said: “Application packs go out to parents in October so we want to have recruited a headteacher and have a better idea of location so that parents feel confident enough to tick that box.”

She said the school would need to have an “outstanding” rating from Ofsted, adding: “Three of the four are already at that level and people move to Caversham to get into those schools. We intend this school to be in line with the others.”

Mrs Rosewell, who runs technology company 51 Degrees with her husband James, says the trust needs more volunteers. She said: “We have an area on our website where parents who want to get involved can sign up to be governors, help with sports clubs or something else.”

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