Delays to the opening of a special school are due to the contractor demanding an extra £500,000 to build the school but the delay could instead cost £10 million a year, according to local MPs.

Reading East MP Matt Rodda and Maidenhead MP Theresa May have written a letter to Department for Education (DfE) secretary Nadhim Zahawi asking him to help to overcome the delays in opening Oak Tree School.

They say the delays to opening to the school in Winnersh, which would accommodate Reading and Wokingham Borough pupils, could lead to extra costs of £10 million per year on alternative placements in the private sector.

READ MORE: New school could open in temporary building next year as Department for Education explains delay


The cost would last for several years as Year 7 pupils are expected to remain in the same school for the whole of their secondary education, the MPs added.

This could mean the total extra cost would be £50 million if the children remain in the same school until the end of year eleven, compared to the  £500,000 “inflationary uplift” the contractor is asking for.

In the letter to Mr Zahawi, sent yesterday, they wrote: “In effect, a discussion about how to respond to a £500,000 extra cost could lead to local authorities and ultimately the department having to spend 20 times that figure for several years.

“We understand the pressures facing the department and the importance of earning value for money from contractors.

“However, we want to draw your attention to this specific issue and its importance to local families and their children and also to our local councils.”

The school will provide places for 75 Reading pupils and 75 Wokingham pupils with special educational needs and disability (SEND).

It will be run by the Maiden Erlegh Trust and based on farmland off Woodward Close in Winnersh.

Oak Tree School was due to open in September 2022, but last week it was revealed the opening had been delayed by at least one year.

The delay weas announced just two weeks before the admission process for the first intake of year seven pupils was about to begin, according to Mr and Ms May.

READ MORE: Special school opening date delayed by at least one year

Mr Rodda and Ms May said the delay is due to the building contractor “asking for an inflationary uplift of around £500,000 to build the school”.

They added: “This could have a significant impact on around 50 local children whose families were due to begin discussions with the school in the next two weeks and who would start at the school in September 2022.

“The school would offer much-needed new facilities for the children with high levels of need and it could make a real difference to many families.”

The MPs have asked Mr Zahawi to address the issues “as a matter of urgency”.