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Oasis Academy South Bank: Government approves new secondary school

Prime minister David Cameron and education secretary Michael Gove have approved plans by Oasis Community Learning to open a new secondary 'free school' in Waterloo.

The announcement was made by the prime minister on Friday morning.

"Free schools symbolise everything that is good about the revolution that we are bringing to Britain's schools," said David Cameron.

"Choice for parents, power in the hands of teachers, discipline and rigour and high quality education in areas that are crying out for more good local schools."

The new school, to be called Oasis Academy South Bank, will open with an initial intake of 120 year 7 students in September 2013.

Oasis – the group of charities founded by Baptist minister and broadcaster Steve Chalke – is already prominent in Waterloo with a church, cafe, conference centre, youth groups and many other activities.

Since last September Oasis has sponsored Waterloo's only primary school – now known as Johanna Primary, Oasis Academy Waterloo – but the North Lambeth area is still without a coeducational state secondary school.

"I am thrilled that Oasis has been given the opportunity to open a brand new secondary school in Waterloo," said Steve Chalke.

"For more than 30 years this has been something which local families have longed and hoped for.

"This marks the start of an exciting new chapter for the area as we work with many business and community partners to develop an innovative curriculum as well as a wide range of extra-curricular enriching activities for local young people.

"I would like to thank all those who have supported our proposal. Their support has made this possible. We look forward to working together as we move forward."

The Oasis Academy South Bank will be for students aged 11 to 16 years, with four forms of entry, opening with an intake of 120 year 7 students next September.

The Government's announcement has been welcomed by Vauxhall Labour MP Kate Hoey.

She said: "I'm very pleased indeed because this part of the borough has had a shortage of secondary school places – no matter what anyone from Lambeth [Council] says.

"I know from my constituents the numbers of parents who have to send their children a long way away whereas actually they would like to stay in the area they come from."

She added: "I think this is great for the Waterloo community ... it's going to be hard work to get it ready for September 2013 but Oasis have a track record and they've done a terrific job at Johanna.

"I think it will be welcomed broadly and should be welcomed by Lambeth [Council] too."

Oasis says it is confident that it will be able to find suitable premises for the school and expects to make an announcement after the summer holidays.

Open evenings for prospective year 7 students and their families will be held at the Oasis Centre on Tuesday 18 September and Wednesday 17 October between 6pm and 8pm.

Plans for two free schools in north Southwark approved last year by Michael Gove have foundered due to a lack of suitable premises.

• As well as the Oasis academy in Waterloo, the Government has also approved an application to open a bilingual English-german school called Judith Kerr Primary School which is currently looking for premises in Southwark or an adjacent borough.

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