Talks to add new Year 7 places at Bohunt School by September have ‘not been plain sailing', a leading councillor has said – but ‘progress has been made.’

Wokingham Borough Council leaders agreed last year to pay £5.2 million to the academy trust that runs the school to help it open a sixth form. Under the deal, the trust also agreed to add new Year 7-11 spaces at the school starting from September this year.

But Prue Bray – the councillor in charge of schools – has told councillors she can’t promise this will happen as talks with the school are ‘ongoing'.

She said: “As usual with these things it has not been all plain sailing, but progress has been made.  I am very unwilling to promise something which is not entirely within my control, but I can promise you best endeavours to do that.”

READ MORE: New hope for sixth form

The Bohunt Education Trust had originally planned to open a sixth form at its school in Arborfield in September last year.

Under a deal signed in March 2022, The Trust committed to spending £2 million towards building an extension, with Wokingham Borough Council providing £3.7 million.

But construction costs almost doubled to £10.5 million – leading the trust to seek more funding from the council.

Wokingham Borough Council leaders then agreed to increase its funding for the project to £5.25 million.

They said the expansion would allow the school to provide 300 new post 16 places once the sixth form opened as well as new years 7-11 spaces. This would be confirmed in a deal negotiated between top council officials and the trust.

Councillor Charles Margetts asked councillor Bray for an update on the talks at a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council on May 23.

He said: “I was told by someone at Bohunt that Wokingham Borough Council plans to offer those places from September this year, and that is perfectly possible as long as the formal agreement is completed between the educational trust and Wokingham Borough Council.

“I know how valued those places would be to people in my ward and other people in the area.  My question was really, would you please push officers to make sure that this formal agreement is in place, and that these places can be offered in September 2024 as promised?”

Councillor Bray replied that ‘negotiations with the school have been ongoing’ but that she would promise her ‘best endeavours’ to ensure the new places are ready.

She also said she believed plans to open the sixth form by September 2025 are still on track.

She said: “The opening date for the sixth form is something that is entirely determined by the school, as an academy, so it is not something that we as a local authority can provide any guarantees on.

“However, it is our understanding that the school intends to open the sixth form to its first cohort in September 2025.”