As the summer draws to a close and the schools return from the long holiday, attention is turning towards this time next year when after decades of waiting there will be a secondary school opening for children who live in the south of the Wokingham borough, and to which many of our current year six students will be directed.
Although it was expected, there has still been general disappointment expressed by many at the choice of name for the school, with the Bohunt Educational Trust choosing to follow the model they used for their new school in Worthing, calling their new school here the Bohunt School – either Bohunt Arborfield or Bohunt Wokingham depending on which leaflet you’ve seen. Many had hoped that the name of the school might be used to retain a link with the past, maybe picking up on the long standing army connection with the site, and certainly if the council or local parents had picked the name we would have got something relevant. However disappointingly the Bohunt Educational Trust is choosing to heavily promote their brand taking the logo and name, that whilst they might have significance for residents around their original school in Liphook, built on land from Bohunt Manor, mean little to the people to the south of Wokingham. Of course the other thing to remember about a strongly branded school like this is that should the Education Provider change at some point in the future, as they can do, exactly as if a petrol station or supermarket changes hands, so will the name and branding.
Naming aside, the original Bohunt School in Liphook has once again got very impressive exam results this year, and the trust continues to be regarded as one of the strongest amongst the new education providers, even despite the rather bumpy ride their appearance on TV over the summer has received in the press. The Bohunt Educational Trust are hosting two open evenings on Tuesday 6th October and Wednesday 7th October between 6:30pm and 8:30pm at Henry Street Garden Centre, with two identical talks on each night at 6:45pm and 7:30pm. Obviously as the school itself hasn’t been built, this will be hosted by staff and students from the original Bohunt School. The trust is also offering the opportunity to visit the original school in Liphook and see how it operates on their open mornings between 12th and 14th October. In addition to the original Bohunt School the trust is also launching their new build academy in Worthing this year, and took over the running of the Priory School in Southsea from the local authority as part of the established government process for academising failing schools, there are no details as to whether Wokingham parents would be welcome at the open evenings at the other two schools run by the trust.
With regards to our school, concerns have been expressed to us that the developers appear to still be clearing the school site, and have not started building anything as yet when at previous meetings about the school it had been suggested that due to the tight timescales if the building wasn’t started by July it would not be finished in time. Whilst there are various rumours as to why the site clearance is taking longer than expected there is no official word for us to report. The council has previously confirmed that there are contingency plans in place should the first phase of the school building not be finished in time for an opening next September. Members of the team from Wokingham Borough Council and the Parental Reference Group will be at the open evenings and will obviously be able to answer practical questions about the buildings alongside the details on curriculum and teaching methods that the educational trust will share.
Moving on to wider issues, over the summer there have been various issues around the clearance work, initially caused by trucks being routed through the Garrison. Crest Nicholson responded to complaints and put much improved signage to direct trucks around on the A327 and up Sheerlands Road, which aside from one or two drivers seems to have worked. More recently there was an issue with a pair of trucks who turned up on site after it had closed, and being on the limit for their driving hours decided to camp up in the Garrison Church Car Park. Again we talked to Crest Nicholson and they have now agreed that arrangements should be made to provide proper facilities for drivers should the situation occur again.
As yet there is no official contact point for site issues. Whilst Phiala Mehring of the Loddon Valley Residents Association backed by Gary Cowan the Arborfield Borough Councillor proposed a residents liaison group when the SDL application was approved, as this idea had worked well on other developments in the borough, and this idea appeared to have been accepted by the Borough Council, the idea has been hijacked by the local borough and parish councillors. Unfortunately in an entirely democratic vote amongst borough and parish councillors the borough and parish councillors decided to exclude any resident who wasn’t a borough or parish councillor from the residents liaison group. Needless to say despite the importance of this group as a contact point for residents, the parish and borough councillors who democratically voted themselves into their roles haven’t actually met yet, and certainly haven’t started to consider providing a contact point for residents, despite work on site being well underway and a number of issues having already come up.
As always we’re happy to use our contacts with the developers and borough council to raise any issues or concerns, we can be contacted via our contact page, email address or alternatively through our Facebook page or Twitter account. Thanks to those residents who have been providing pictures of any lost truck drivers over the summer, please continue to do this as it was residents concerns about the camping truck drivers that highlighted the issue initially and have lead to Crest Nicholson providing better facilities for them in future. Especially as the schools go back and children will be walking to local schools, pre-schools and bus stops we need to remain vigilant to ensure the trucks keep to the safe routes to and from the site.
In wider issues it was great that the closure of the A327 completed a day earlier than expected, and given the monsoon like conditions we’ve been getting over the past couple of weeks the new flood relief could well get an early test. As before there will be off peak traffic lights in place on the A327 to allow for various other parts of the project, but since the developers are acutely aware of the traffic levels the road carries those lights are removed for the morning and evening peak.
Wokingham Borough Council have announced the next date for the regular Community Forum – Wednesday September 23rd, from 7pm to 8:45pm, as usual held at the Henry Street Garden Centre. There is not a full agenda as yet, once we get more details we will issue an update.