Thu, 03 Sept 2020
AFTER years of dispute, a new primary school opened in Theale this week, providing an improved facility for children in and around the village.
The school provides a modern, purpose-built environment for up to 315 pupils.
West Berkshire Council executive member for children, young people and education Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston) said the new school was “absolutely wonderful”.
“It’s really great. It’s a huge change from the old school which was full to bursting, in fact it had burst,” he said.
“They have bought so much of the feel and atmosphere from the old school so when the children arrive they are going to feel they are still at their school and everybody is really excited about it.”
The opening of the new school follows years of negotiations between Theale Parish Council and West Berkshire Council, with the siting of the new building causing division in the village.
Discussions over the future of the Ofsted-rated outstanding school started in 2014. Options to expand the school were quickly dismissed, meaning the district council had to search for a suitable location to build a replacement.
Land at the North Street playing fields was chosen as the only viable site due to land availability and cost.
The parish council, and some villagers, raised concerns over the location, which it rents from the Englefield Estate, including children’s safety, highways safety and loss of open space.
The parish council voted to relinquish its lease on the land in 2018, paving the way for the new school.
Mr Boeck said: “I’m delighted that after a long journey we have completed this wonderful community asset in which the children of Theale and the surrounding areas are going to thrive.
“It would have been better if we had done it earlier. Because of the constraints that existed at the old school some children have gone to neighbouring schools.”
District councillor for Theale Alan Macro (Lib Dem) said: “I’m obviously very pleased that the new school is open. It means that Theale children will get a good education, which they have always got at Theale Primary, and the facilities are excellent, as opposed to the rather rundown and rambling previous school.
“The only complaint I would have would be it’s taken so long to get to this stage.”
Mr Macro said the opening had been “a bit close to the wire” because of delays in connecting the school to the electricity supply.
But he said: “All in all it’s great for the children in Theale. It’s such a shame that it’s taken this long and bought such dissension in the village.
“I think once people saw how much of the field was left some of the scare stories were put to bed.”
An under 15s football pitch will be constructed by West Berkshire Council to compensate for the loss of a pitch on the school site.