Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has welcomed the significant progress that has been made in the campaign to set up a new secondary school in West Reading and praised members of the West Reading Education Network (WREN) for their hard work in trying to make the new school a reality.
Having completed the initial stage of the application and been judged by the Department for Education to have a strong application, WREN have now been formally invited to attend an interview with department officials on 8 March 2013. If the application is successful, the school could open its doors for the first time in September 2014.
One of the criteria by which the WREN application will be judged is the level of support in the local community for a new secondary school, so the WREN team have been asking parents that would be interested in sending their child to the new school to sign up to an expression of interest survey. More than 900 parents have now signed up to the survey with 89% of respondents stating that they would commit to sending their child or children to The WREN school. The group have hit or exceeded nearly all of the targets set by the Department for Education for respondents, including 126% of the required signatures from parents in year 4 and 109% from parents in year 5.
In January 2013, Alok Sharma wrote to the head teachers of primary schools in the local area on behalf of WREN, asking whether they would allow representatives from WREN to come into their school to meet parents and present their plans for the new school to raise awareness and support for the plans.
WREN have now held meetings, or attended parents’ evenings at Battle Primary School, Katesgrove Primary School, Manor Primary School, Oxford Road Community School and Saint Mary and All Saints School.
Alok has also written a letter of support for the school to the Department for Education, pointing out the huge pressure on school places in Reading and the experience of the WREN team putting forward the application, explaining that many of those involved had also been involved in setting up All Saints Junior Free School, which was the first Free School in Reading.
In a response from Michael Gove, the Secretary of State at the Department for Education assured Alok that these points would be taken into account by Department officials.
Alok Sharma said: “It is good news that WREN have been invited to interview stage by the Department for Education, and I congratulate the WREN team for all of the hard work that has been put in to this application so far. I would like to thank all of the primary schools in the local area that have been very supportive of the application and wish WREN the best of luck at the interview stage.”
Mischa Tytel from WREN said: “We are all very excited to be going to interview with DfE next week. This has been a real community project from its beginning in November, involving parents, schools and members of the local community and we could not have got this far without their help. We are very fortunate to have Alok on board, he is extremely active in his support of local projects such as this, and we are very grateful for his hard work. Over the next week we and CfBT Schools Trust will continue to prepare for the interview and we hope to be announcing the opening of a new secondary school for Reading very soon.”
More information about the school application is available on the WREN website: http://www.wrenschool.org/. The website also has an online survey to collect data to support the school, as well as a blog and mailing list so that everyone can keep up to date with the group’s progress. There is also a Facebook page and a twitter feed @WRENschool, which will also provide regular updates.
Photo: Alok Sharma with Mischa Tytel and other supporters