St John's School in Marlborough will be able to take more students thanks to a £1.19 million grant to pay for a new sixth form study centre.

The new centre will raise pupil numbers from 1,500 to 1,700. St John’s sixth form is oversubscribed by around 120 pupils, so the centre will mean it has room for 550 students.

The school applied for the grant from the Education Funding Agency, to cover the cost of the whole project, through Wiltshire Council. It had to show the need to have room for more students, based on capacity and facilities and projections for future growth.

Principal Dr Patrick Hazlewood said: “There was huge competition from schools all over England for this funding and we feel incredibly privileged to have been awarded this grant at a time of so many public sector cuts.

“Students in the area have to travel to Swindon, Salisbury and Trowbridge and that’s a long way.

"These colleges offer some fantastic courses and it’s not about competing with them, it’s about been able to offer places to more young people in Marlborough and in Pewsey.”

At the moment students applying to St John’s sixth form have to get at least four B and two C grades at GCSE level but the new space will allow these grade boundaries to be relaxed.

Dr Hazlewood said: “This will allow us to offer places to students who perhaps haven’t got such high grades but who need to go on to sixth form.

“We will be looking at introducing new courses and perhaps more vocational courses that we are not in a position to offer at the moment.

"At the moment we offer 38 courses for A-level and IB students and we have a teacher capacity that covers that, so once the building is completed we would anticipate expanding our teaching staff by about three or four posts.”

Although St John’s has had problems with parking in the past, most of the extra students will be coming from Pewsey and Marlborough so it is hoped they will walk or use public transport.

Town and county councillors as well as representatives from the governing bodies of both St John’s and Pewsey Vale School visited the academy last Wednesday to see the new plans, and all showed their support for the proposals.

The two-storey centre will be built opposite the main entrance, next to land allocated for an all-weather pitch, and will have eight sixth form classrooms and a private study area.

Work must be completed by this time next year to ensure the grant, so the academy is putting in plans this week and hopes building can start as soon as possible.