Arborfield school consults on sixth form expansion plan

Bohunt School
Bohunt School in Arborfield wants to expand Picture: Phil Creighton

BOHUNT Education Trust is consulting on its proposal to build a sixth form at its Arborfield school.

In a statement, the trust said the school is “heavily oversubscribed” with most students living within two miles from the site.

It said the school always “intended to include sixth form provision as soon as viable to do so”, and said a “considerable majority of students” want to stay on for sixth form.

The trust said it intends to deliver the original commitment to post-16 education from this September.

This would serve students from Bohunt and consider applications from Oakbank School – the only other 11-16 education resource in the borough.

After three years, the trust hopes to open applications wider.

The trust added: “Bohunt School is in an area of extensive housing development and it is recognised that additional sixth form places will be required in south Wokingham and across Wokingham as a whole.

“The notion of equality of local access to 11–18 education provision is most important and

one that has underpinned other similar developments in the area.

“Inevitably, this development will require capital investment to provide additional classroom facilities on the existing school site.

“Various options, subject to specification and professional advice, are being considered, including the siting of modular buildings.”

The trust said discussions have also been taking place with Wokingham Borough Council about immediate and long-term financial investments in the project.

However, executive member for children’s services, Cllr UllaKarin Clark said that while the council had an interest in the issue, ultimately it was up to the regional schools commissioner to decide, and the borough had sufficient capacity for sixth form education.

She added that the council has originally envisaged that Bohunt would have a sixth form and up to 1,200 pupils. An extension could be added to meet additional demand, up to 1,500 pupils, in the future.

But, Bohunt increased the numbers for years 7 to 11 so it was 1,200 pupils, meaning that it couldn’t have a sixth form cohort.

“The Council has allocated a limited capital budget to enable sixth form expansion, if this is judged necessary, after consultation with all stakeholders,” Cllr Clark said.

“We have looked at capacity for post-16 places and found that we have enough places within the borough to meet the needs of post 16 learning through to 2024/25.  Moreover, expansion of Bohunt School for 2021 would require both temporary and permanent accommodation and the Council’s resources could not accommodate this.

“Taking these matters into account, we are not able to build or provide funding for an increase to the existing premises at Bohunt School to support the Trust’s proposal.”

She continued: “Although we recognise this is not what the parents of Bohunt pupils would wish to hear, as a council we have a responsibility to look at the overall impact of our funding decisions in terms of value to all residents, including taking account of any impact on other schools providing post-16 learning within the borough.

“We will continue to review this decision. I am confident that wherever the school’s current Year 11 pupils continue their post 16 education, they will continue to thrive.”

The trust said after the consultation, it would submit a full full business case to the Regional Schools Commissioner, who acts on behalf of the Secretary of State for Education, who will make the decision about whether to expand or not.

The consultation period ends on Sunday, February 28.

Residents can support or object to the proposal by emailing: sixthform@bohuntwokingham.com

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