Wednesday, 17 August 2022

School could expand instead of moving

GORING Primary School could expand on to a neighbouring green space instead of relocating.

The parish council, which owns Bourdillon Field behind the school in Wallingford Road, has agreed the move in principle.

Now the governors and the Diocese of Oxford, which runs the Church of England school, are to consider raising up to £8 million to refurbish or rebuild the Sixties premises and take over the western half of the 0.8-hectare public recreation ground.

A report commissioned by the governors earlier this year said the school was rundown and no longer fit for purpose.

Architects Original Field, of Oxford, said more than half the buildings were in a poor condition and many had exceeded their life expectancy and were beginning to crumble.

The school has four options if it stays where it is:

•Build new classrooms to replace the temporary ones that it needs to meet capacity. The main building is structurally sound but needs refurbishing at a cost of about £1 million.

This would preserve the swimming pool, although the pre-school would go.

However, the school’s capacity would remain at 210 so this wouldn’t address concerns that it is oversubscribed and village children are being turned away.

•Refurbish 11 classrooms instead of seven, bringing the capacity up to 330 and keeping the pre-school.

• Replace most of the buildings but retain and refurbish the junior classroom and sports hall but this would not increase the capacity.

• Replace the entire school apart from the hall and bring the capacity up to 315. This work could be carried out without disrupting the existing school whereas the other three options would be carried out in phases with pupils being taught in temporary premises.

Original Field said: “With the addition of Bourdillon Field, the school can continue to flourish in its current location. It has been proven that a new or refurbished or reconfigured school can be accommodated on site.”

Last year the school sought permission from Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, to move to a new £6.5million complex on the field behind the houses in Springhill Road, about half a mile to the north.

The Hildred family, who own the land, agreed to meet the cost if they were allowed to build 56 houses on the site as well as 46 on a field west of Wallingford Road and 34 flats on the old school site.

The county council didn’t oppose the idea but said it couldn’t give the go-ahead until other options had been fully explored.

The offer remains on the table but relocating the school would require planning permission and one field and the school’s existing site are not earmarked for development in Goring’s draft neighbourhood plan.

In a letter to parents, the school governors, diocese and parish council said the most significant challenge was funding as all four options required “significant expenditure”.

The letter added: “Given the current state of school funding, we cannot assume the diocese or county council will be able to contribute a significant amount.

“A working party is being established to explore potential funding sources and structure so that the governors are in an informed position to decide.”

Helen Scurr, who chairs the governors, said: “Relocating remains an option but there is a lot of barriers to achieve that so we are considering every possibility with an open mind.

“We want to provide a new school that can accommodate all the children of Goring but we don’t know what demand we will face in future until the neighbourhood plan has been determined.”

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