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22.11.2012 12:51 Age: 2 yrs
Category: Front Page

Diocese wants to create two new schools

OUR diocese has unveiled plans to create two brand new church schools to help families desperate for places.


Campaigning parents at the site of the proposed new school

The first should be in Whiteley, where parents face the prospect of two hours a day driving to and from schools in Fareham unless a second primary is built. The second could be an academy in the new development west of Waterlooville.

Our education team want to open a new C of E primary on a temporary site between Leafy Lane and Lady Betty’s Drive in Whiteley from next September. It would provide an extra 30 places each year for children who would otherwise be sent to schools on the other side of the M27 – as there simply aren’t enough places at Whiteley Primary School.

The plan is to start with a class of 30 four-year-olds in September 2013, and perhaps some five-year-olds, and to admit 30 new pupils each year until the school is full. Ultimately, it would move to North Whiteley where up to 3,000 new homes will be built in the next few years.
 
It would be a godsend for parents such as Joline Murray, whose four-year-old daughter Lucy (pictured below) is due to start school next year.

“I’m really pinning my hopes on this,” she said. “I’ve set my heart on it opening. I live and work in Whiteley, so it’s so much more convenient to take her to school here. The other schools are not far away, but it takes so much time to get there because of the traffic.”


 
Laura Poustie, who is mum to Niamh, 3, and Lewis, 1, said: “Niamh will be going to school in September 2014, and we’ve got the figures to show that’s a bumper year across the whole of this part of Hampshire. The need for the school is huge, and it’s brilliant that we’re going to have a school here.
 
“The site might not be ideal, but it’s only temporary, and the new permanent site will be better. The alternative is not just having to go out of Whiteley, but also that your children might not end up at the same school, which means you start having to put them in breakfast clubs and after-school clubs.
 
“To me, a school is actually a focus for the community, as you do make friends at the school gates. That’s more difficult if you’re doing it away from where you live. And I like the fact that it’s a faith school because I like the idea of assemblies and celebrating Christian festivals.”
 
Sarah Dow, who is mum to twins Katie and Thomas, 2, and three-month-old Alice, said: “A lot of the children who go to the pre-school go to Whiteley Primary, but my children won’t because of where we live. A lot of people living in our part of Whiteley haven’t got any of their three choices of school, so it means they could be placed anywhere.”
 
Jon Mayhew, whose daughter Imogen, 3, will start school in September 2014, said: “It’s important to us because it affects Imogen and lots of our friends who live even further from Whiteley Primary than we do and have no chance of getting in.
 
“It will be nice for our children to have a degree of faith in their education. It’s good that the entrance criteria won’t be based on faith, but that there will be assemblies, prayers and festivals celebrated.”
 
And Alison Allwood, who is mum to William, 2, and two-month-old Emily, said: “We want our children to be going to a school where they live, where they can walk to school and where they can go with their friends who live nearby. My friend takes an hour to get to St John the Baptist Primary in Hunts Pond Road and back every day.”
 
The demand for places in Whiteley has outstripped supply for many years, and many children living there attend schools in the Western Wards of Fareham. Hampshire County Council tried to buy a suitable site for a new C of E primary in Whiteley in 2007, but weren’t successful.
 
Then in 2011, our diocese worked with Emmaus Learning and applied to set up a C of E Free School there, but this was turned down by the government. So the diocese consulted with residents this autumn about a voluntary aided school that could be opened within a year.
 
Residents were keen to go ahead and our Diocesan Board of Education has now approved plans and issued a public notice. It still needs final approval from Hampshire County Council before it can be built. Its Executive Lead Member for Children’s Services is expected to make a final decision in January 2013.
 
Meanwhile our diocese has also applied to the government to open a new 420-place academy, serving the development to the west of Waterlooville from September 2014. This would be a Church of England school, but would welcome pupils aged 4 to 11 from the whole community, and also wouldn’t use faith as part of its admissions policy.
 
Our diocese carried out research among those already living in the new Berewood and Old Park Farm developments. A total of 86 per cent were supportive or very supportive of the plans, and 84 per cent had no reservations about a C of E faith ethos for the school. The government will decide in December if our diocese has won the bid.
 
Local churches would also hope to employ an ecumenical community worker, who could point residents to the various existing churches of all denominations.
 
Our diocesan director of education Tony Blackshaw said: “We’re excited about the possibility of providing schools with a Christian ethos in these areas where they are really needed – not just to provide good education, but also to act as a focus for these communities.”