FAMILIES living in Arborfield Green have been shocked to discover their children may not get a place at the new primary school, due to open in September.
It is the new home for Farley Hill Primary School, on Church Road. The replacement was created to build a larger facility that would accommodate more students — but concern is spreading that capacity will be limited to 30 places this year.
“The original plan was to start with a two form intake, and increase it to three,” she said. “We were expecting a two form intake, but have now been told it’ll only be one form.”
The cohort will also be selected based on the Church Road catchment area, meaning Ms Bryant and many other families could miss out on a place.
Cllr UllaKarin Clark, executive member for children’s services, said the number of places available at Arborfield Green is under consideration, as the primary school admissions process is still active.
Last month, 102 families declared a preference for the school — this includes applications where Farley Hill is a second or lower priority.
Clare Bryant, who hoped her three-year-old daughter would attend the new school, said she feels misled.
Her family lives in Arborfield Garrison, with their house “100 metres” away from the school.
She said a number of residents have grouped together, over growing concern their children will not be eligible for a place at the school, if places are limited to 30 pupils.
Many of them moved into the development, built by Crest Nicholson, under the impression the garden village would include a school their children could attend. In some cases, Ms Bryant said families were told their child would get a place.
“I asked the admissions team why the cohort had dropped, and they said it was due to demand,” Ms Bryant said.
Now, she is preparing to drive her daughter to a different school, outside the borough.
“I work full-time and my partner is in the military,” Ms Bryant explained. “I need an easy drop-off.”
Instead of walking her daughter to school, she is now planning on driving to a location near her workplace, outside the area.
“Walking to school is really important for a lot of people that moved into the area, and were sold the idea of living in a garden village,” she added. “Most people who live close to the school aren’t going to get a place there.”
Cllr Clark said the council will continue to work with schools on how places will be allocated ahead of the offer day on Friday, April 16.
“The council has to balance the understandable desire of Arborfield residents to see places at the new school available for their use, while ensuring long-standing schools in the area remain viable for the community,” she said.
“Allowing the rolls at other schools to fall significantly by opening another form at the wrong time, could damage the education of children attending these other schools. It could lead to the loss of capacity, as schools re-organise, that will be required in the long term for the borough.”
Cllr Clark said residents from homes around Arborfield Green walk to The Coombes and “are seeing the benefits of less traffic on their route following the opening of Observer Way”.
She said Finchampstead schools have also been used by residents in the area, some of which can be reached using a new greenway.
“This is a lit, surfaced off-road walking and cycling route, created by the council to encourage walking and cycling,” she added.
“When we cannot offer places to a school which is preferred on an application, we will always offer them a place at another Wokingham borough school. The council does not send children out of the borough for school. Parents may have many reasons for preferring schools in other areas, and there is a long-standing exchange of pupils between Wokingham and surrounding boroughs, as a consequence.”
Crest Nicholson declined to comment.