Wokingham free school bids deadline closer

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Time is running out for applications to run two new free schools in Berkshire.

Wokingham Borough Council has submitted planning applications for three schools, and two are open to offers to be run as free schools or academies.

Proposals must be in by Wednesday and the new schools, part of a council drive to create 150 new school places per year group, will open in September.

Earlier the National Audit Office said 250,000 extra school places would be needed in England by autumn 2014.

The council has plans for new schools in Charvil, Winnersh and Wokingham.

The Charvil one will be run by The Piggott School, a nearby secondary, subject to approval by the secretary of state for education.

Councillor Charlotte Haitham Taylor refused to confirm details of applications to run the other two schools, but said there had been a "variety of interest".

She said the council "struggles with" government policy in favour of free schools and academies, which do not fall under local authority control, but she said problems could be avoided by finding the "right provider".

Robert Wilkinson, Wokingham and district secretary for the National Union of Teachers (NUT), welcomed the plans for new schools.

But he said the NUT had "major reservations" about free schools and academies, which he said were not as accountable to the community as council-run schools.

The council also plans to create some new school places at existing schools.

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