Parents plea for non-selective Burnham secondary

A campaign to create a ‘Burnham secondary school for all’ stepped up a gear at a packed public meeting in Burnham Park Hall on Tuesday.

Burnham doesn’t have a non-selective secondary school. Its only secondary school, Burnham Grammar School, caters for 30 per cent of the village’s children who meet the 11+ exam entry requirements.

The other 70 per cent of Burnham’s young people have to travel to neighbouring Maidenhead and Slough, where schools such as Cox Green School are currently oversubscribed due to the town’s growing population.

Campaigners want to open a new non-selective school at the former E-ACT Burnham Park Academy in Opendale Road.

Dr Andrew Gillespie, headteacher at Burnham Grammar School and the potential overall head of both that and a new non-selective secondary, said that the allocation of placements is a ‘ticking timebomb’.

He said: “When you have large housing developments, as seen in Slough and Maidenhead, it is incredibly difficult for school planners to get an accurate picture of numbers.

“It won’t be long before we come to a position where students in Burnham are isolated, not able to go to some of the secondary schools that we’re currently sending them to.”

The meeting heard that, if a new non-selective secondary school doesn’t materialise, and places in immediate neighbouring towns decline, there is a potential that some Burnham school children could be sent to schools up to 90 minutes away.

Alison Joshi fears that her two children, aged nine and seven, won’t be educated locally.

“We’re starting to look for our eldest in October but there are just so few options,” she said.

“I could put my children through the 11+ test but I don’t know if we want to deal with the stress and the expense of it all.”

Other concerns from parents range from children not being able to take part in extracurricular activities to funding annual train fees which could be more than £1,000.

To highlight these issues the working group behind the campaign are inviting people to send letters to the Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MP, and the leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Cllr Martin Tett.

There is also a petition to sign and parents are being asked to help give the campaign a boost by sharing their stories of concern about the future of their children’s education.

Burnham Parish Councillor, Cllr Ekta Ross, who is currently chairing the working group, announced at the meeting that the petition now has 1,000 signatures but more are needed.

“We still need more help. The local community – we still need you.

“The five co-ordinators in this group – none of us have children who need this school but all of us are passionate about education and all of us came together because it is wrong what is happening here. It is unjust and unfair.

“It is time to take action.

“It is time to get fired-up. Get your neighbours fired-up, your neighbours’ neighbours fired up.

“This is relevant to all of us.”

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