A SCHOOL at the heart of a new housing estate is set to be split onto an additional ‘satellite’ site half a mile away in an attempt to support the growing population.

Plans to increase St Edburg’s CE Primary School in Bicester by over 200 places were approved yesterday by Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education and cultural services.

Located in the Kingsmere housing estate, the school was relocated to its current site, and expanded, in 2016 to meet the need for primary school places from early construction work.

The expansion of the school is expected to cost in the region of £8 million, this funded by developer contributions secured by the county council.

See also: Work underway to save Blenheim Palace chapel

The move will see the school increase from 420 to 630 primary places, including expanding the nursery from one nursery room to three.

Nursery, Reception and Key Stage 1 will move to the new site, while Key Stage 2 will stay at the current building.

Ms Lindsay-Gale said at the meeting yesterday: “I’m very happy to support and approve this proposal, I am very confident and comfortable with the decision to approve this.”

Oxford Mail:

Councillors Les Sibley and Michael Waine also offered their support to the expansion.

The changes are anticipated to be effective by September 2023.

The school is the only primary in the Kingsmere development, which consists of over 2,400 new homes, approximately 1,000 of which are not yet completed.

With the swelling numbers, admission for St Edburg’s became a challenge for parents, so much so that for this year’s intake, 20 pupils living within the designated area of the school were refused places.

Read more: Adorable snaps chosen for charity calendar

Admissions data for 2020 shows that the Bicester South and Ambrosden ward (where Kingsmere is located) had the lowest level of successful first preference applications within the Cherwell district and the highest level of families being offered a school which was not one of their preferences – 4.9 per cent compared to 1.9 per cent for Oxfordshire as a whole.

A four-week consultation which ran until October 23 revealed that eight respondents from at total of 18 objected to the expansion.

Of those responses, concerns were raised about the difficulties for families with children on both sites, such as children walking between the two sites in bad weather.

Meanwhile, the Kingsmere Residents Association highlighted the need for a safe crossing point across Whitelands Way.

See more: Harley Street doctor set to become governor at school

However, the county council report noted that St Edburg’s would operate a ‘walking bus’, whereby parents can drop off children at one site and school staff would walk the children to the other.

An earlier informal consultation saw 39 per cent express support for expanding the school, while 49 per cent expressed opposition.

This was raised at the recent consultation, with respondents questioning why the council was proposing the expansion when the majority of responses to the previous consultation preferred the option of a separate new school.

In light of concerns that a satellite site would create less choice, competition and diversity than two separate schools, the council’s report said a new school would take ‘several years to get up to full size’ and hence the budget of the school would be more limited, as school budgets are primarily based on pupil numbers.