Wilby CE Primary School confirmed to move to Wellingborough’s Glenvale Park facility after council approval

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The switch will happen in time for the 2024-25 academic year

After months of deliberation and consultation, Wilby CE Primary School’s move to Glenvale Park has been approved by North Northants Council (NNC).

The relocation to the Wellingborough development was approved at an executive meeting this week and now preparations will begin for a September 2024 start.

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Lynette Dudley, chair of governors at Wilby CE Primary School, said: "We are delighted by this outcome.

The primary school facility at Wellingborough's Glenvale Park developmentThe primary school facility at Wellingborough's Glenvale Park development
The primary school facility at Wellingborough's Glenvale Park development

"Our children will have access to better learning spaces, more vibrant and green play areas and improved resources and opportunities.

"We will now work closely with of our community to explore how we can grasp every opportunity offered.”

Cllr Scott Edwards, NNC’s executive member for children, families, education and skills, said: “We knew that we needed to arrive at the best decision which is why it was so important that we gathered as many views as possible.

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"We reviewed the recommendations and results of the consultation and made the best decision for the children and parents of the school.”

Wilby CE PrimaryWilby CE Primary
Wilby CE Primary

The meeting, which was held at the Corby Cube, saw councillors discuss the relocation which came about after it became apparent there was insufficient demand for school places in the area.

This meant the site couldn’t open as its own, new school due to a lack of funding from the Department for Education.

At the meeting, leader of the council Jason Smithers said: “We want school capacity within our area.

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People are moving into the area and they want goods schools that they can go to.

"Often councils are criticised about not having the infrastructure before the expansion, we’ve now got the expansion and we’ve got the infrastructure coming along at the same time.”

Cllr Edwards introduced the report from the council which noted that, during the public consultation period, more than 63 per cent of respondents agreed that it would be a good idea for Wilby to make the move.

Cllr David Brackenbury said he ‘absolutely welcomes’ the proposal.

He said: “We are providing good quality school provision.

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“I’ve seen the building go up on the development. It’s going to be a really good building, and it’s going to be really good for the pupils who actually attend the school.

“It’s very good stuff, very much to be welcomed.”

Cllr Valerie Anslow, the mayor of Wellingborough, addressed the room at the meeting with her concerns.

She said: "The consultation results show, after the initial outrage, there is a general acceptance of this being good for the pupils and staff, although the responses of parents who are fearful of the change on the size of the school need to be taken seriously."

The recent Ofsted report noted that there are currently 82 pupils on the school roll, with the Glenvale Park facility having the capacity for 420.

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Cllr Anslow added: “Many parents have chosen a village school because of its size, and parents from Wellingborough will have chosen Wilby school for that reason.

"Like Stanton Cross’ school, it will continue to be below capacity for a few years while the houses are built and the families move in.

“We know from the numbers of children missing education that a proportion of these are children with SEND. Surely a SEND provision at Glenvale Park is an opportunity to help address this problem.”

The council insisted that the site being departed would be used for ‘other educational purposes’, however Wilby CE Primary is owned by the Peterborough Diocese, so the use of the school in the future would have to be discussed by both it and the council.

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As for the soon-to-be vacated school, more provision for SEND pupils was considered.

Cllr Anslow noted that Rowan Gate, the SEND provider in the local area is ‘full’, which ‘indicates a growing need’ for support for students with learning difficulties.

She emphasised the need for a purpose-built school rather than looking to ‘make do and mend’ by using premises that need modification to make it accessible, which is the case for the Church Lane location.

For Wilby CE Primary, this move from its village setting to the new housing development will be a big change for all involved.

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Lynette added: "Given that this is probably the biggest piece of news in our 170 years of history, there will understandably be questions and concerns to work through.

"It is also important to recognise that, while we are hugely excited about our future, we will never forget our past.

"Our school has a rich and proud history, and we will work tirelessly to ensure that the school’s ethos and sense of community thrives for generations to come."

Mark Best, director of Midtown Capital, managing partner of Glenvale Park LLP, said: “We want to leave a much bigger legacy than simply bringing new homes to the area, which is why it’s been excellent to see the new facilities like the school come to fruition.

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"The students and wider community will also be able to benefit from the recently opened nursery and our play park; a flagship recreational amenity for children living in the area.

“In addition to the education facilities, Glenvale Park has generated a significant amount of social value from the delivery of our community hub, care home, local centre and business park.

"The new school is the perfect addition to that ambition, and I can’t wait to see parents and children across the area enjoy it for many years to come.”

The council insisted families from the Glenvale Park development with primary aged children will be able to apply for a school place as part of the normal NNC admissions process.

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Wilby CE Primary to Glenvale Park – the story so far

Following the news that Glenvale Park’s primary school would not receive adequate funding to open as a new school, NNC accepted expressions of interest from pre-existing local schools, which attracted two responses from Little Harrowden and Wilby CE respectively.

While the new, modern facility had benefits to both schools, each being situated in one of Wellingborough’s surrounding villages meant some parents took issue with the expressions, as petitions were launched by people from both schools.

However, plans remained intact, and after the expressions of interest were collected, a council panel then reviewed and assessed applications, where a recommendation was put forward by the panel that Wilby CE Primary should be the school to relocate to the Glenvale Park site to coincide with the start of term in September 2024.

A 30-day public consultation began on September 5, having received 204 responses. Those responses fuelled the decision to approve the relocation.

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Now, the formal Department for Education process of making a significant change to a maintained school will begin, and the necessary preparations and planning for the relocation will also start immediately.

Requires Improvement

Wilby CE Primary was visited by Ofsted on September 26 and 27, where its grade dropped to requires improvement.

In the report it was praised for its core values, sense of community and family, and SEND support, which Ruth Pritchard, a parent in Wilby who was previously intending to send her child to the Church Lane school, said were ‘all factors which draw me, and many others, to this school.’

She added: “It is also what we fear would be lost from a larger establishment such as the proposed Glenvale Park school.”

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When contacted about the Ofsted result and how, if at all, the move would impact the school’s quality, Lynette Dudley said: “We have a strong school community and, if agreed by councillors, the move to Glenvale Park strengthens our ability to respond to challenges we are facing.

“Transferring our ethos and values into a setting with so many more educational and pastoral opportunities for our children is a very exciting prospect.”

Ruth Pritchard added: “While it is a shame the school has dropped their rating, by looking through the report there is clear indication that the school is aware of the areas of development and are actively seeking to resolve this.”

If a school drops to requires improvement, it will receive an inspection again within a period of two and a half years, at which point Wilby CE Primary’s relocation would hope to be seamlessly complete.