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Melksham Oak announces expansion plans

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MELKSHAM Oak School has announced plans to expand the school from 1,260 to 1,500 students, aged 11 to 16, by the new school year in 2021.

The plans, which are currently in the consultation phase, include the construction of a new building on disused land on school grounds that will house 10 classrooms, new science laboratories, a new canteen area, a sixth form common area, a sixth form study area, and new changing room facilities.

The school, which is the only secondary school in the town, has said that they  need to expand because of a growing primary school population and new housing being developed in the town. 

Estimated figures shared by the school show that by the 2020 school year, the school will be over capacity by 15 pupils. This will increase to an excess of 120 students in 2021. 

By 2028, the school estimates that there will be 1,487 children aged 11-16 needing a place at Melksham Oak, which has a capacity of 1,260 – a shortfall of 227.

If plans are given the go-ahead, the school expects the new facilities to be ready by June 2021, in time for the new school year in September 2021.

At a meeting held at the school last week, education adviser for Wiltshire Council, Tom Lindsay, explained to parents and local representatives that expanding Melksham Oak was the only current option to meet the increasing need for secondary school places in the town. We do not have £25million for a new secondary school in Melksham,” said Tom. “It would be impractical to open a second school in Melksham – it would be a massive step. 

“We think the plans proposed are the right size for Melksham. There are no other options, and nothing else in the pipeline.”

Answering concerns that the estimated figures for Melksham’s population growth do not take into account new housing targets for Melksham that are expected to be announced next year by Wiltshire Council, Tom said, “We will deal with that when it occurs. These are the figures we have now, and the priority is to make sure that places are available to children now.”

Melksham Oak has backed the plans for expansion. In a letter to parents, the school said, “We have discussed the proposal and support the principle of expansion so that we can help meet the need for school places in the local area. 

“There are disadvantages as well as advantages to expansion and we summarise below some of these.

“Advantages: The school would be better able to meet the needs of more of the local community who wish for their children to attend their local school.

“Additional places would be available for children living nearby.

“Job creation and greater career progression opportunities for members of staff. The expansion of the school would provide further teaching posts and other related roles from 2021.

“Increased financial flexibility and resourcing for the school.

“New facilities for teaching and learning.

“Disadvantages: The school size will increase, but this will happen incrementally over five years. We will preserve a “family” feel so that students know the staff in their area and don’t feel lost.

“Some disruption may occur during the building works on the site and in the local area which would need to be managed very carefully.”

Plans for the school expansion are expected to be made public when a formal planning application is made later in the year.

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