Shinfield & Arborfield Secondary School Waiting List Number Rocket!!
In the catchment area for Shinfield and Arborfield, the secondary school waiting list numbers have grown over the last three years by a staggering 320%, according to the Council’s own figures:
Secondary School Places Allocation, Southern section, Wokingham Borough, March 2016 and March 2019
NB: A child may appear appear on more than one waiting list.
2016 secondary school places
Names on waiting list 2016
2019 secondary school places
Names on waiting list 2019
St Crispin’s School
Source: From ‘Wokingham Borough Schools Allocation of places: Statement of the allocation for appeal purposes’ , March 2016 and March 2019
This huge rise is in spite of a nearly 10% increase over the same period in the school places offered.
But those steeply rising waiting list numbers are not equally spread across the catchment area. By far the worst affected schools are Bohunt School and Oakbank School. Waiting lists there are longer than elsewhere. The percentage of pupils getting their first choice averages just 65% across these two schools, as compared with 93% for the rest of the catchment area, and a national average of about 80%.
Are these schools being overwhelmed with applications because of their superb academic record? No: Bohunt School’s performance statistics aren’t yet known because it’s new, and pupils have only completed the first few years of their studies. As for the Oakbank School, its 2018-19 ‘Attainment 8 score’, a predictor of GCSE performance, happens to be the second lowest in the borough, at 46.1, well below the South East regional average score for 2018-19 of 47.9.
Overdevelopment threatens school places
The reason is clear enough from their location: Bohunt School in Arborfield and Oakbank School in Shinfield lie in areas where huge house-building programmes, approved by WBC, have not seen accompanying infrastructure growth. Back in March 2016, before the Arborfield Green, West of Shinfield and Littlebrook housing estates, were occupied, there were no names on those schools’ waiting lists. Three years later, in March 2019, there were 70 names for Oakbank and 202 for Bohunt. Nearly three-quarters of the extra numbers on the 2019 waiting lists were for these two schools alone.
Parents’ growing uncertainty about where their secondary-school age kids will find a place is the direct result of developers building houses too fast, before the infrastructure has had time to catch up.
And once again, we see the burden of over-development falling unfairly on the borough’s western parishes. This time, it’s our children’s school careers that are at stake.
Surely not… more houses in Shinfield?
So what do the developers want to do next?
Yes, build yet more houses in Shinfield! Well beyond what the local plan allowed for. An extra 249 dwellings off Cutbush Lane, in a field beyond Oatlands Road. Does Shinfield need them? Surely not, you’d think. Not when there’s no more capacity for our schoolchildren aged 11 onwards.
Thankfully, this time the Borough Council has at last stood up to be counted, and rejected their planning application (no. 181499 on WBC’s portal).
But the developers (Bellway) have appealed, as they do. The appeal will be heard on 21st-23rd January, at the Shute End Council offices (tbc). It’s important to turn out and show the Planning Inspector how we feel, and secondary school places are set to remain a major issue locally.
The background fact is that the borough’s secondary school age population is increasing, yet no new secondary schools are being built. It’s not good news for residents who are looking for a school for their 11-year olds next year.
And the last thing they need when they’re trying to find the right school for their kids is another couple of hundred families decanted into the catchment area.
Article by Richard R