05:26PM, Wednesday 01 December 2021
Plans for a new primary free school in Maidenhead have advanced after the Royal Borough’s cabinet gave agreement in principle for the opening of the site last week.
The building in Chiltern Road – on the former Forest Bridge School site – was earmarked as a potential new school earlier this year and is proposed for continued primary school use in the borough's draft local plan.
The local authority ran a consultation, which ended in April, to seek people’s views on opening the new facility, and it will now organise a competition to decide who will run it.
Free schools are schools funded directly by Government, but not controlled by local authorities.
A council report revealed that a total of 54 per cent of respondents to the survey supported the opening.
It added: “The competition would invite proposals based on a specification for a 210- place primary school, for boys and girls.
“Once the competition ends, cabinet will be asked to recommend which proposal should be approved, although the final decision would rest with the Department for Education.”
The council’s lead member for children’s services, Councillor Stuart Carroll (Con, Boyn Hill) told cabinet that the authority’s projections indicated that demand was likely to be ‘lower than previously expected’, due to lower birth rates and a decline in migration.
Alongside the Chiltern Road site, the council also asked people for their views on expanding a number of existing schools in Maidenhead.
Larchfield Primary and Nursery School; Lowbrook Academy; St Luke’s Church of England Primary School and St Mary’s Catholic Primary School were earmarked.
No firm plans were made at last week’s cabinet on this, other than that the council would keep demand for places ‘under review’. Proposals for the expansion of the schools will be brought back for consideration in the autumn.
Alongside this, the Royal Borough cabinet also agreed to carry out a public consultation on the expansion of Larchfield Primary and Nursery School.
“When we think about demand for school places we need to try and make decisions based on not just the best available data but also looking at those future trends,” Cllr Carroll said.
“We have at this point looked at the analysis and at this point we don’t necessarily need to make decisions on some sites because of the anticipated demand.”
Earlier in the meeting, the cabinet discussed the demand for school places borough wide, with opposition councillor Amy Tisi (Lib Dem, Clewer East) asking if there was a reason why there had been an increase in children looking to seek education outside the borough.
Director for children’s services Kevin McDaniel informed that there had been an increase in the demand for grammar school places, which resulted in more pupils being educated outside the Royal Borough.
However he said that there was still demand for borough school places as standards and choice increased.