THE MERGER of Ascot Heath Junior School and Ascot Heath Infant School into one primary school is set to be confirmed.

The decision comes after the council’s budget for 2019/2020 indicated £450,000 could be set aside for building works on the new school, which would see the age range of Ascot Heath Infant school extended to accommodate children from Ascot Heath Junior.

A report produced for the council read: “Whilst National Funding reforms are currently taking place, it is estimated that an amalgamated school would receive around £0.16m less funding than the separate Infant and Junior Schools.

“An amalgamation would also present opportunities for substantial cost savings, depending on how a new primary school is organised by the governors.”

According to the council more than 90 per cent of respondents to an initial consultation on the proposals supported the amalgamation, with 85 per cent agreeing that the Junior School should close and the age range of the Infant School should be extended.

However it has not yet been decided whether the new school should have Church of England status, as the Junior School currently does, and a council report “recognised that there are continuing, strong opinions regarding whether or not a primary school should have a church status.”

Ten of the 34 responses the council received supported church status, with one response being “passionately in favour of a secular education.”

The council had been concerned the Diocese would be entitled to the land once the schools are closed but legal advice given to the authority indicated that the site would remain under council ownership.

Despite the decision to approve the recommendation to amalgamate the two schools, it is still to be decided what the new school should be called, who the headteacher will be, the school uniform and the teaching structure.

The News reported in 2018 that plans are being made by Walsingham Planning to replace the existing schools with a new school building, as well as dozens of houses, sports pitches, a swimming pool, and a golf course.

A planning application for these proposals is still pending consideration but has it has received opposition from neighbours who were upset with the size of the new development and the addition of another golf course.

However one respondent claimed the plans would “give the community a school fit for the 21st century.”

Plans to amalgamate the schools have been approved by the executive member for children, young people and learning Cllr Dr Gareth Barnard on Wednesday, January 2.

The decision is set to be confirmed after members of the council are given a chance to call-in the decision before the end of next week.

Should the decision go ahead, the new school is expected to open in time for the beginning of the 2019 academic year in September.