Monday, 10 August 2020

School will stay and expand for time being

GORING Primary School has committed to expanding on its existing site instead of moving to new premises.

Governors of the Church of England primary, off Wallingford Road, whose Sixties buildings are in poor condition and need replacing, have confirmed the latter is no longer considered a realistic option though it could be revisited.

An improvement and expansion of the existing school was already on the table when a new board was appointed last year, at which point the new governors agreed to reconsider the best way forward.

Now they say they will be prioritising efforts to raise enough money, most likely £3 million or more, to expand onto the western half of Bourdillon Field, which lies immediately to the east of the school site.

This outdoor section would be fenced off solely for sports and outdoor activities while buildings on the existing footprint, which include a number of cabins that were only meant to be temporary, would be refurbished or replaced.

This has been agreed in principle by Goring Parish Council, which owns the Bourdillon land and would lease it out at a nominal “peppercorn” rent, while the rest of the field would remain open to the public. The work would be carried out in phases over a period of up to a decade.

At a virtual full meeting of the authority last week, governor Bernardette Sachse told councillors: “Previous aspirations for a new school on a new site cannot categorically be ruled out forever.

“However, that is a very long-term aspiration and will only ever be reconsidered in the future if there was extreme housing development in the village which put significant pressure on our infrastructure.

“The availability of funding and its sources were the main driver behind our decision because a new school would have been significantly more costly and challenging to undertake.

“This is an unsuitable time to be undertaking ambitious fundraising activity so we’re concentrating on something smaller.”

She said the work could be guided by an earlier feasibility study which said it would cost more than £1 million to get the existing buildings back up to standard.

New classrooms could then be built and the sports hall refurbished to include showers. The new layout would have more areas for group work.

The project would require planning permission from Oxfordshire County Council as education authority and funding could come from grants and donations.

It would be carried out in partnership with the Diocese of Oxford, which has previously offered £200,000 to improve one or two classrooms but governors said this was a “sticking plaster” and not the best use of the money.

In 2017, the school had planned to move to a 3.8 hectare field off Springhill Road, a five-minute walk to the north, after developer McAdden Homes offered to build a larger school for free.

But in return the company wanted to build housing on another site not earmarked for development in the village’s neighbourhood plan so the deal fell through.

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