Hopes to build a secondary school on the site of an existing primary school in Cobham were thwarted because parties were unable reach an amicable agreement on provision for local children, it has been revealed.
Exploratory talks between Cobham Free School, St Andrew’s Primary School, the Diocese of Guildford and the local education authority to consider building the free school’s secondary provision on the site of St Andrew’s Primary School fell apart at the final hurdle.
The secondary branch of the free school would have 72 places per year, with up to 55 places set to go to its junior pupils, leaving 17 places for St Andrew’s pupils to apply for.
But plans to build the school at the Lockhart Road site failed to progress further, with parties blaming each other for the failure.
A source close to the negotiations said a big breaker in the deal was Cobham children had to benefit from the school, which was difficult with the size the free school wanted.
The source said other parties tried to convince the free school to become bigger and accept St Andrew’s as a feeder school. In mid-May, it was 50/50 the school would go ahead.
But the Diocese of Guildford said proposals were moving too quickly and they could not have an agreement under the free school’s timescale, the source said.
The source said: “I think if the two schools had been left to decide the negotiations, a win/win deal could have been reached for the benefit of the whole of Cobham.”
A Diocese of Guildford spokesman said: “The diocesan board of education and Cobham Free School had positive and detailed discussions over the development of the site and both were indeed happy to work together.
“However, the school subsequently decided to proceed with development on an alternative site, after considering all the benefits of the options available.”
Another source close to the discussions said the free school was unable and unwilling to negotiate the finer points of admission and pupil numbers.
The free school announced in late June that it had secured a permanent site for their senior department, acquiring six acres of land adjacent to Anvil Lane.
Michaela Khatib, executive headteacher at Cobham Free School, said: “We investigated a number of possibilities for a site, and held constructive discussions with various parties.
“We have now settled on an excellent option which can meet our timescales and are fully focused on developing this exciting opportunity for the Cobham community.
“We would like to emphasise that at all stages site negotiations have been highly constructive and we are very grateful to all those who have taken the time to participate in discussions.”
Cobham Free School, which will take its first year 7 pupil this year, will teach all pupils at its site at the former police station in Portsmouth Road until a secondary school building is built.