Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Headteacher backs plan to merge schools on one site

The Piggott School

PLANS to merge the junior and infant schools in Wargrave have been welcomed by the executive headteacher.

Sally Akers said that a new building would be good for the children and that they deserved better facilities.

As the Henley Standard reported last month, the plans have been revived for the fourth time in 11 years.

The new building would be paid for by selling the sites of the existing schools for housing — Robert Piggott Infant School is in Beverley Gardens while the Robert Piggott Junior School is in School Hill.

The governors have identified four possible sites for the new schools — east of Wargrave, south of Harvest Place, south of Braybrooke Road or west of the A321.

Mrs Akers said the existing facilities were small and ageing.

She said: “It has been a long-held ambition of the governors to modernise and get a newer building. We would love bigger classrooms and dedicated space for small group work. It would also help us with after-school clubs. We have lots of demand and it would be lovely to have the room for everyone.

“Obviously, it would be wonderful if the project came to fruition.”

The merger plans were first suggested in 2008 but were put back due to the recession.

They were then revived in 2013 with support from Maidenhead MP Theresa May, who was then home secretary.

In 2017, Wokingham Borough Council, the education authority, agreed to compile a business case for a new school but this was put on hold due to staff shortages.

Mrs Akers, who has been in post for nine years, said: “We have petitioned them [the council] several times, particularly because of the roof at the junior school, which has been a constant problem for two decades and has been patched several times.

“I think the schools were always performing well in terms of academics so it was not seen as a priority by the council in terms of modernising and refurbishment.

“Other schools were struggling so the energy has gone into those. It has meant that we have been left alone.

“Our schools are very good and the children perform very well. They get a good education but the rooms are small and there is no doubt that we could do better. The children and the staff deserve better than this.

“We put the children first in everything that we do and we would love for them to have more modern facilities.”

Mrs Akers said she would support selling the existing sites provided the houses were affordable for families and sympathetic to the area. She added: “It would be lovely for the village to have all the children under one roof.

“We have big ideas but it is just a case of waiting for it to happen and we are back at the beginning of the process again, so we don't want to get too excited. Having done it a couple of times before, I feel a little more cautious about it.”

Graham Howe, who represents Wargrave on the borough council, has said he is desperate for a new school to be built following so many failed attempts.

Councillor Howe, who is deputy executive member for children’s services, said: “We are very, very lucky in Wargrave because of the schools that we have.

“What we need is to get their [Wokingham’s] support. I am determined that this project should go through. If, in my position, I can’t get this through, I will have failed.”

Cllr Howe is a former governor of the schools.

The borough council won’t comment on the issue.

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