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Parents' fears over plans for new free school

Published: 15 Dec 2012 17:002 comments

A SECONDARY school focusing on the English Baccalaureate could be built in east Reading to cope with the pressure on places - but parents have labelled the proposals "rushed."

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More than 50 people attended a meeting called by Reading East MP Rob Wilson on Tuesday, to announce plans for a free school suitable for 600 children aged 11 to 16.

Mr Wilson said: "This is one proposal, it is not a done deal, and it is up to us as a community to decide whether to take it up."

He said he was unable to reveal the site because this would jeopardise the bid, but assured parents it was within walking distance of their homes.

Parent Laura Blackburn Finlay, who is leading the bid, said: "I am worried about where my son is going to go to secondary school.

"We want a school for kids which will help them reach their potential with a good pastoral care system. There are excellent primary schools in east Reading and we want this to continue to the next stage."

International education company GEMS Education is backing the bid, which must be submitted to the Department for Education by next month if the school is to open in September 2014.

But some parents stressed there is not enough time to get the bid together, and one said: "This all seems a bit rushed really. It feels like there is a huge amount to do."

But Mr Wilson said he worked with the same time frame for the IT-specialised University Technical College, which will open next September for teenagers aged 14-19 on the Crescent Road site.

He added: "I believe we can do the same thing here. There is nothing stopping another bid, but nothing lost if we have a go."

Speaking after the meeting, east Reading parent Stephen Green said: "I would like to be involved, but I'm unsure why we as parents were kept at arm's length until the last minute.

"I don't want to be cynical about it, but work has been going on for months in the background and now parents have been involved because they need to demonstrate support.

"There is no time to contribute to the bid in a worthwhile way, but at the same time, if it means we have the potential to lose the site, I do not want to do that."

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