Wokingham Borough Council is looking for parents to join its new parent reference group, promising its members that it will play a leading role in the development of a new secondary school, which is set to open in September 2016.

However, the South of Wokingham Parents Action Group (SOW) is doubtful about how much of a say people will have, with meetings scheduled for once a month.

The new school, set to be built within the Arborfield Garrison site, will cover Arborfield, Barkham, Wokingham, Finch-ampstead and the surrounding areas.

At present, some youngsters from the south of the borough are being allocated places at Bulmershe School in Woodley – a journey that parents say takes about an hour by car because of heavy traffic.

Gill Purchase, co-founder of SOW, said: “It is good news the council has finally got off its laurels and has made the positive step in setting up the reference group. However, just how much input parents can realistically have meeting once a month for a couple of hours remains to be seen.

“I truly hope the council delivers fully on its pledge to open the school in September 2016 and actively engages with and listens to parents.” The school has been the subject of a battle between the council and SOW for several months.

Frustrated by what the parents’ group considered as lack of progress by the council on a new secondary school, it pushed ahead with its own plans to set up a free school at the Arborfield Garrison site.

SOW came close to submitting a formal application to the Department of Education for the school in March but pulled out after the council agreed to build one ready for 2016.

Cllr Charlotte Haitham Taylor, executive member for children’s services, said: “We will be opening a great new secondary school in September 2016 and we need parents to play a big part in achieving that.

“There has been an understandably strong desire for a secondary school for our children in the south of the borough and we are thrilled that we will be able to provide one now.

“The timescale for this school to open in September 2016 is tight but achievable and we will make sure we engage with parents and the wider community throughout what promises to be an exciting and rewarding journey.” The first meetings of the new parent reference group will take place at 11am and 7.30pm on Monday, July 21, in the David Hicks room of the council’s Shute End offices.

Anyone interested in joining the group can contact Brian Grady on 0118 9746247 or email brian.grady@wokingham.gov.uk