Willmott Dixon has secured a £5m contract through its framework with Scape to refurbish a former school in Wokingham to create Oakbank, a new secondary Free School that opens this September.

The move follows local demand for a new secondary school serving the needs of villages to the West of Wokingham and other local communities. This has now moved a step closer to reality with education charity CfBT Schools Trust selecting Willmott Dixon to develop the buildings on the disused site to house an inclusive, non-faith secondary school providing 500 – 600 school places for 11 – 16 year olds.

Chris Austin, head of property services at CfBT said: “We are delighted to have been able to secure a contract with Willmott Dixon to refurbish this former school site in time to open Oakbank this September. By working with the Education Funding Agency and Scape we have been able ensure a great start for this groundbreaking new school and its first students.”

Free Schools are a central element of the Government’s education reform programme, allowing parents, teachers and charities to come forward to set up new schools where there is demonstrable demand. Oakbank is one of 94 Free Schools that have either already opened or have been approved to open from September 2012 onwards.

Peter Owen, managing director for Willmott Dixon in the Midlands who is responsible for the company’s work in this emerging sector, said: “We’re delighted CfBT Schools Trust chose us to ensure the school opens for the start of the new academic year. It’s a key advantage of the quick procurement timescale offered by Scape that enables us to start on site within weeks, which is essential to meeting the September opening. On this occasion we were able to design, price, mobilise and enter into contract in four weeks.”

Alan Coole, business development director at Scape, added: “Free schools are all about creating greater autonomy in the way that educational facilities are funded and managed. Allowing a speedy procurement route for those schools wishing to grow and develop fits in very well with this ethos. That’s why we’re delighted to have been able to work with all partners to bring this particular scheme to fruition so quickly.”

Working with Architects ADP, Willmott Dixon will begin on site in July, helping ensure Oakbank is ready to open for Year 7 students in September 2012. The remainder of the works will be completed by September 2013. Scape is a local authority owned construction framework.