Third school is on the cards

Didcot Girls’ School headteacher Rachael Warwick with some of her girls

Didcot Girls’ School headteacher Rachael Warwick with some of her girls Buy this photo

First published in News Herald Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering Didcot and Wallingford. Call me on 01865 425425

RESIDENTS will get a chance to have their say on whether Didcot should have a third academy in the New Year.

In November 2011, Didcot Girls’ School and boys’ school St Birinus announced a joint bid to run a third academy in the town.

The new secondary school will be created to deal with pupils who move in to the 3,300-home Great Western Park development.

Hundreds of homes have already been built off the A4130, and it is expected the new school will open by 2016.

Oxfordshire County Council is due to begin consultation on the idea after the Christmas break.

Head of Didcot Girls’ Rachael Warwick said the two Didcot schools would announce in the New Year whether they planned to go ahead with the third academy.

A joint statement said: “Governors at both Didcot Girls’ School and St Birinus are in ongoing conversations regarding this.

“The local authority plans to open a consultation on the third school after the Christmas break, and we will be ready to share our vision with all key stakeholders.”

Town council leader Margaret Davies said: “Hundreds of new homes are being built every year at Great Western Park and there will be quite a demand for extra school places in the next few years, so people in the area would like to see some clarity soon on the way forward.”

St Birinus School converted to an academy this year, and Ms Warwick and St Birinus head teacher Alwyn Mr Richards joined forces with Teresa Kelly, principal of Abingdon and Witney College, to prepare a bid to the Department for Education to run a new co-educational school.

In the meantime, Didcot Girls’ School has received a funding boost of £110,000 to carry out repairs to the oldest part of its site.

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The 1,400-pupil school in Manor Crescent became an academy on August 1 this year.

As a result, it received an extra £350,000 on top of its usual annual budget and there have been £50,000 of improvements following the switch to academy status.

Ms Warwick said: “We found out last week that our application to the Department for Education’s capital bid programme has been successful.

“The money will be used for replacing doors throughout the site, and providing new windows in the oldest block St Frideswide’s.

“We are submitting a bid for a further £500,000 for a new heating system in St Frideswide’s, and want to look at some structural improvements to that block, which is the oldest part of the school and in dire need of work.

“As far as I am aware, academies don’t automatically get this extra capital funding, and this is the first tranche of extra money we have received since becoming an academy.

“We obviously received an uplift in funding after converting to an academy, but that will decrease year on year as more and more schools become academies.”

Following the conversion to an academy, the girls’ toilets were also refurbished, and improvements were made to a bungalow on the site called The Croft.

Ofsted inspectors who visited Didcot Girls’ School in January rated it ‘good’ and St Birinus also has a ‘good’ rating.

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