vision for a NEW CHURCH SCHOOL 

We have a vision to build a new church school here in Buckingham. There is currently no school with a strong Christian ethos in our parish and we want to put that right - parents deserve a choice!  There are some excellent CofE schools around Buckingham (in Maids Moreton and Chackmore for example) but these are outside our parish and not that close to some of the proposed new estates.

 

With all the new housing estates being built our current primary schools may reach capacity in the next 5-10 years.  Enlarging them will exacerbate access problems and parking etc ... We want to cater for new demand if and when it presents itself.  

Following recent publicity of the survey we launched a few months ago here is a copy of the letter we sent to local Headteachers explaining the situation:

Dear Headteacher,
 
Please forgive the impersonal salutation.
 
I am contacting you to clarify some of the recent speculation and misinformation about Buckingham Parish Church's vision to explore opening a new Church of England school in Buckingham. I want to apologise if you have been concerned about what you may have heard or picked up.   I also wanted to set the record straight as I will be on sabbatical until September from next week. 
 
With a growing church in a rapidly growing town it is my job as Rector to look to the future to see how we can position ourselves to best meet the community’s spiritual needs.  Having bid (unsuccessfully) for the new school on Lace Hill and knowing that Lace Hill was but one of several planned estates it seemed obvious that at some stage there would need to be extra capacity in our primary schools.  Governments across the political spectrum have strongly encouraged the involvement of Churches in education and so we started to look at the possibilities.
 
In summer 2017 we approached the Local Authority asking about their plans to meet the need for school places in Buckingham with the new houses planned for the town in the Neighbourhood Plan and the draft AVDC Plan. At that point they said they would have no objection to a Free school.
 
We then explored how close to capacity the schools were using the school census data. This analysis led us to conclude that additional places would be needed if families continued to move into the town in similar numbers as they have been doing over the past six years. After seeking advice, we then distributed an on-line questionnaire to seek the views of our Christian community as to whether there was support for such a school. Over a hundred families expressed an interest in sending their children to this school and other members, without young children, also offered support.  This questionnaire went into ‘the wild’ after someone posted it to a local FaceBook page.  The wording on the questionnaire (which said that there was no CofE school in Buckingham) could have been clearer.  While this is a statement of fact (the CofE schools in Maids Moreton and Chackmore are not in Buckingham and specifically lie outside the Parish of Buckingham), I do accept that we were not sufficiently sensitive to the reality that many regard  Maids Moreton school as being in Buckingham.
 
Since our initial approach to the LA, the January 2018 census data shows a dip in births and, currently, insufficient of the anticipated housing has received planning permission to trigger a school. The LA conclude that the additional places needed at present can be supplied by growing places in current schools. They also acknowledge that the situation in Buckingham is unique and difficult to plan for and that this solution is not ideal.
 
We were always clear that a new school would only be pursued if there was a need for the equivalent of 60 school places each year in the area. This was made absolutely clear in every public statement.  As this key criterion is currently not reached we are putting our plans on hold for a few years until the new housing is more certain.
 
With access difficult at BPS and at Bourton Meadow my own view is that there needs to be a fresh vision for primary provision which is not best served by a sticking-plaster approach of adding chunks of extra capacity here and there.  If the town continues to grow out to the West the obvious solution is to build a new school and so if/when that need presents itself (and if the planned new estates never materialise this will never happen) we will stand ready to build a new school but only, I repeat only, if there is a clearly defined need.
 
As a Church we are full of admiration for the strong schools in Buckingham and the leadership you provide as Heads.  We would certainly want to co-operate closely with you if and when the time is right for a new school.
 
I do hope this helps clear up any misunderstandings