The Connaught School unlikely to be allowed to run new primary school being built as part of Project Wellesley
A decision is due on whether the new primary school proposed to be built as part of the Aldershot Urban Extension will be a stand-alone academy or free school.
Hampshire County Council’s executive member for education Councillor Peter Edgar will review a report on the school to be built as part of the large development, called Project Wellesley, on Thursday (October 24).
The Connaught School, in Tongham Road, had expressed an interest in managing the new primary school, which will accommodate 630 children.
However the report cast doubt on its ability to do so, and recommends that a free-standing school be built which, under government guidelines, would have to be an academy or free school.
The report being sent to Cllr Edgar states: “Any school expressing an interest in managing additional primary provision would have a strong record in providing high quality education as judged by Ofsted.
“Whilst there were many positive aspects cited in the latest Ofsted Inspection Report in March 2013 of The Connaught School, the overall conclusion was that the school requires improvement.”
Hampshire County Council have been reviewing options for education provision, with 3,850 homes set to be built as part of Project Wellesley. Earlier this year, the council set out two options for primary provision.
One was to allow The Connaught, a secondary school, to run the new school on the western site of the development, and another was to create a stand-alone facility. Residents and parents were invited to propose further options.
John Beresford, development director at Grainger, the developer managing Wellesley, said: “It is brilliant news to us as it is the decision we were hoping for.”
Mr Beresford had previously criticised the council’s alternative option to expand The Connaught School, describing the idea as ‘bonkers’ and saying the company would rather have a new, free-standing school built.
He said: “We are creating a fantastic new community and at the heart of that community we want to have this new school there so it can really help establish the area.”
Assuming the recommendation is adopted, academy sponsors would be sought to manage and run the new school.
Mr Beresford said if the outcome of the meeting goes in their favour, Grainger hope to have their say on how the school is delivered.
He said: “We want to be a part of the early stages on development and we would like to work closely with Hampshire County Council to help run the school.
"If the council do determine that a new school will be built we will be looking forward to seeing if they want to work with us then we will look for a partner for the school, such as the Church of England or some sort of charitable foundation.”
However Lindsey Abbott, headteacher of The Connaught School, maintained that an expansion of The Connaught would adequately cater for the additional pupils.
She said: “I will accept the council’s decision but will be disappointed if I don’t get the opportunity. There are a lot of decisions to made.”
If The Connaught was expanded it would change its age range so it would take on pupils aged 4-16.
A consultation meeting was held by Hampshire County Council in June last year to allow parents, neighbours and other interested parties to comment on the latest proposals. However only six people turned up to express their views.
The council also received 14 written responses from nearby schools regarding the consultation.
Four of these responses were in favour of the expansion of The Connaught, six were in favour of opening a new school and four suggested alternative options.