Thursday, 29 July 2021

School will have to grow or move to cope with demand

WATLINGTON’S secondary school will have to expand or be rebuilt on a new site in order to cope with new housing developments.

Oxfordshire County Council, the education authority, says the town’s neighbourhood plan should ensure that Icknield Community College and Watlington Primary School both have the ability to grow in the future.

The plan names three sites for up to 260 new homes to the north and west of the town.

However, about 3,000 houses could be built on Chalgrove Airfield, about four miles north of Watlington, under government proposals.

The county council says the homes proposed in the plan would generate about 12 children qualifying for free nursery education, 60 primary age pupils and 45 secondary age pupils.

The proposed airfield development would not, in isolation, make a new secondary school sustainable without threatening the viability of Icknield.

However, the combined impact of all the proposed growth, plus the the existing population, within the college’s catchment area would require a secondary school with 1,500 places, more than double the current roll.

A school that size would require a site of 10.6 hectares under government guidelines but Icknield’s current site in Love Lane has only about
6.2 hectares with limited scope for expansion.

In its official response to the plan, the county council says: “If the proposed Chalgrove Airfield allocation is approved, a strategic solution will be necessary to provide secondary education across the area. This will require a larger site being made available to Icknield Community College.

“To bring the current site area up to the standard requirement for a 1,500- place school would require an additional 4.4 hectares being added to the current site.

“The school does not have sufficient current capacity to meet the cumulative needs of development within its designated area. It is therefore necessary to ensure the ability of Icknield Community College to expand in future years is protected through this plan.

“The school’s site is bounded by Watlington Primary School, the proposed development site referred to in the plan as “site C’ and land in Pyrton parish. One option for expanding the school would therefore be for land within site C, or in Pyrton, to be transferred to the school.

“However, it may not be possible to provide sufficient additional land.

“The county council... has suggested that a possible solution would be for the existing Icknield Community College to be relocated to Chalgrove Airfield, if that allocation is confirmed, to enable it to expand.

“This would bring benefits to the financial sustainability of the school and enable it to widen its curriculum offer, most notably by extending its age range to include sixth form education, which is not viable at the school’s current size.

“It would also enable complete replacement of the school’s accommodation.

“To fund the relocation and expansion it would be necessary for the existing Icknield Community College site to be disposed of for development and the resulting disposal receipt invested in the school’s new accommodation.

“Some of the site could be transferred to Watlington Primary School, to protect its ability to expand if necessary.”

The council says the primary school also has insufficient capacity to meet the expected needs of the proposed scale of development but adds: “However, birth rates have slowed in recent years, resulting in lower primary school intakes.

“If this trend continues, the school would be able to accommodate the scale of housing growth indicated. Inevitably, there is uncertainty over future birth rates.

“It is therefore strongly recommended that the ability of Watlington Primary School to expand in future years is protected through this plan.

“Expansion of the school to two forms of entry — 60 children per year, total capacity of 420 places — would offer benefits to school financial and organisational management.”

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