Have a say on plan for education

Melinda Tilley, the county council’s executive member for education

Melinda Tilley, the county council’s executive member for education

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

PARENTS are being consulted on plans to create a University Technical College (UTC) for Didcot’s new Great Western Park estate.

More than 3,300 homes are being built off the A4130, and more than 200 families have already moved in.

Education bosses at County Hall estimate there could be up to 500 more primary age children and 300 more secondary age children in Didcot by 2016 because of the new estate.

Three new academies – a secondary school and two primary schools – are to be created as the town’s population is expected to reach 30,000 by 2016.

Last week, Didcot Girls’ School, boys’ school St Birinus, and Abingdon & Witney College said they were bidding to run the secondary stage academy on the new estate.

But now another bid has emerged, for a UTC for 14- to 19-year-olds, which could open in September 2015.

According to the county council’s consultation document, the Science UTC Oxfordshire bid is being submitted following a meeting between the county council and Oxford & Cherwell Valley College (OCVC) in Oxford.

It said: “The UTC would not meet all the needs for additional secondary school places as it would be for the 14-19 age range.”

Town council leader Margaret Davies said: “The UTC bid looks very strong and responds to the perceived need for a technical and scientific workforce, but it doesn’t cater for 11- to 14-year-olds.”

According to OCVC, the UTC would open in phases and would eventually cater for 600 students from Didcot, south Oxfordshire and Oxford.

Melinda Tilley, the county council’s executive member for education, said the council supported the UTC bid, but added there could be room for another school for secondary pupils.

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“Great Western Park could take both,” she said.

County council spokesman Marcus Mabberley said: “The decision about whether to approve the Didcot UTC rests with the Department for Education, not the council.”

OCVC said industry sponsors included Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Milton Park Innovation Centre, and BMW Group Plant Oxford.

The headteachers of Didcot Girls’ and St Birinus schools said the academy they hoped to run would be an ‘all-through’ school, taking pupils aged three to 19.

The consultation finishes on March 31.

Have your say at myconsultations.oxfordshire.gov.uk/consult.ti/GWP2013/consultationHome

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