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Oasis Community School Waterloo: further details announced

Further details of a proposal for a new secondary 'free school' in Waterloo have been revealed as the Oasis charity embarks on a round of public consultation events.

We reported last month on plans by Oasis, the Christian charity founded by minister and broadcaster Steve Chalke, to set up a Waterloo secondary school.

Since the start of January several consultation events have been held and Oasis claims that more than a hundred local families have signed up to pledge their support for the proposal.

The new school, to be launched under the coalition Government's flagship 'free school' policy, would be called Oasis Community School Waterloo.

The proposed co-educational school would be for children aged 11-16 years, with four forms of entry opening with an intake of 120 year 7 pupils in 2013.

'Why would you live anywhere else but here surrounded by culture, by art, by learning, by medicine and by government?" asked Steve Chalke during a community consultation at the Oasis Centre in Westminster Bridge Road on Monday.

However, claiming that all the wealth in the neighbourhood was bypassing the local community, he said that he envisaged a small secondary school which "knits the curriculum with businesses in the community and is world class".

Mr Chalke hopes that the new school will tap in to the resources of the world-class businesses and cultural institutions in SE1: "If there was anywhere in the whole of Great Britain you wanted to set up a school and tap resources you would probably choose here."

The charity is already in discussions with Coin Street Community Builders, The Old Vic, Morley College and Waterloo Quarter BID to identify possible opportunities for collaboration.

Oasis intends submitting an application to the Government next month. If shortlisted there will be a further consultation period in the autumn.

The very earliest the school could open is September 2013. The school would accept new students one year at a time with the school reaching full capacity by 2018.

Among those present to hear about proposals at Monday's community meeting were Bishop's ward councillor Peter Trusedale and representatives of Lambeth Council and the National Union of Teachers.

Speaking on LBC News 1152 on Monday, Mr Chalke said that although Oasis is a Christian charity its schools are fully inclusive.

"I am a Christian. In fact, we run a local church in Waterloo. But we already run the only primary school that's here. Johanna School is part of Oasis and it chose to be part of Oasis even though Oasis is a Christian foundation.

"We serve all children. We do not select on the basis of ability or faith. We serve children of all faiths and no faith – and our staff represent that as well.

"We believe that there needs to be a religious emphasis of all sorts. So if you live in Waterloo you live in a very multicultural area.

"If a child goes through school and perhaps they are Muslim then they need not only to have a good knowledge of their faith but to understand Sikhism – and Hinduism and Judaism and Christianity.

"We need to celebrate all faiths rather than, in a watered-down attempt to not be prejudiced, celebrate nothing at all.

"Education isn't about proselytisation but if any child leaves any school in the UK without a working understanding of the other great faith movements then I think we do breed discrimination rather than an integrated society."

Opportunities to learn more and comment

The next Oasis Community School consultation event is at Archbishop Sumner Primary School, Reedworth Street SE11 on Thursday 26 January from 6.30pm to 7.45pm.

Another meeting is being held at the Living Space in Waterloo Road at 4pm on Friday 10 February followed by a wider community meeting at 7pm.

A further consultation event will be held on Wednesday 8 March at Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre; times to be confirmed.

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