A HEADTEACHER has expressed delight that her school is set to increase by over 200 places.

Last week, plans to expand St Edburg’s CE Primary School in Bicester were approved by Lorraine Lindsay-Gale, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education and cultural services.

The move will see the school – at the heart of the new Kingsmere housing estate – be split onto an additional ‘satellite’ site half a mile away in an attempt to support the growing population.

Now, headteacher Margaret Kunzer has shown her support for the plans, saying the move will give the school a ‘unique opportunity to offer outstanding educational facilities for the children and families on Kingsmere’.

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“We are delighted that the cabinet member for education and cultural services has approved the proposal to expand St Edburg’s CE Primary School,” she said.

“There is a lot of work and exciting planning ahead of us which will involve the whole school community and we can’t wait.

“It’s a great time to be teaching, learning and serving at our school as we plan together to make a school that provides standout education for the children of Kingsmere.”

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The new site will be specially designed for children from two to seven years old, with Mrs Kunzer saying there will be lots of outdoor learning space.

She added the school will also consider ways to develop the existing site to accommodate the needs of older children, including specialist facilities for subjects such as art, music and IT.

The school was relocated to its current site, and expanded, in 2016 to meet the need for primary school places from early construction work at Kingsmere.

The expansion of the school is expected to cost in the region of £8 million, this funded by developer contributions secured by the county council.

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The move will see the school increase from 420 to 630 primary places, including expanding the nursery from one nursery room to three, with these changes anticipated to be effective by September 2023.

The school is the only primary in the Kingsmere development, which consists of over 2,400 new homes, approximately 1,000 of which are not yet completed.

With the swelling numbers, admission for St Edburg’s became a challenge for parents, so much so that for this year’s intake, 20 pupils living within the designated area of the school were refused places.

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Admissions data for 2020 shows that the Bicester South and Ambrosden ward (where Kingsmere is located) had the lowest level of successful first preference applications within the Cherwell district and the highest level of families being offered a school which was not one of their preferences – 4.9 per cent compared to 1.9 per cent for Oxfordshire as a whole.

A four-week consultation which ran until October 23 revealed that eight respondents from at total of 18 objected to the expansion, with concerns raised about the difficulties for families with children on both sites.

However, St Edburg’s is set to operate a ‘walking bus’, whereby school staff walk children from site to site.