For about 25 years parents in the area have had the option to choose Bradon Forest in Purton and have their child bused there at no charge. But this could be stopped from 2009 if the proposal put before Swindon Council’s cabinet at the end of July is accepted. It would mean that families selecting Bradon would have to foot the transport bill.
The changes will not affect pupils already attending the school or those entitled to free transport. Children starting Bradon in September 2007 will have free transport throughout their school career.
The council is also reviewing the provision of free transport from West Swindon to The Ridgeway School in Wroughton.
The council met the cost of transporting children to the two schools before Greendown in Grange Park was built and for years since because it was not big enough. Some families chose schools outside the area because of concerns about the perceived quality of education on offer.
Coun Gary Perkins, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said that there had been good reason for providing free transport in the past, but, as Greendown is predicted to have adequate space in the future – due to falling secondary school numbers in West Swindon – the situation should be reviewed. He said, “it does seem time to look at the amount of money spent on buses. It should be spent on education not busing children around the town. It’s not good for the environment and Swindon Council has proved that its schools provide good education.”
Currently Swindon Council taxpayers underwrite school transport out of West Swindon to the tune of £523,009. The cost of transport to St Joseph’s Catholic School is an additional £235,745 and this is subject to a separate review.
Greendown headteacher Clive Zimmerman has expressed frustration that many children living in his school’s catchment area are bused elsewhere even though there is increasingly spare capacity because of changes in the local demographics. In January 2007, Greendown had 199 surplus places and it is predicted that this number will be 373 by 2009. In September, 624 pupils will receive free transport from West Swindon to Bradon Forest and 170 to Ridgeway.
Bradon Forest was awarded specialist status in Performing Arts, Art, Music and Sport in 2003. Last year the school’s GCSE performance was one of the best in the Swindon area, with another improvement in results. Just under 71 per cent of pupils achieved 5 or more A* to C grades. The average number of points per pupil for GCSEs gained was 414.5 against a Swindon average of 345.6.
In March 2006 Ofsted inspectors concluded, ‘this is an effective and improving school which provides a good quality of education for all its students.’ Inspectors noted the strong leadership which sets a clear direction for the school in developing a culture of both support and challenge, which results in a relentless drive for improvement and raised standards of achievement.
Bradon headteacher Len Spiers, pictured, said, “the school has yet to be contacted by Swindon Council regarding this issue. We are unaware of the actual structure or timings of the proposed consultation process. However, it should provide a range of opportunities to place all aspects and details of our ‘admissions history’ and partnership with Swindon into the public domain. This will help promote an informed discussion.
“This proposal, if successful, will only affect students who join the school from September 2009. I have written to families to clarify this.”
Coun Nick Martin, cabinet lead member for resources, has asked for the process to be completed before Christmas. A report to cabinet is expected in February or March 2008.
If you have an immediate view on school transport arrangements, send them to:
• Ian Bickerton, Childrens’ Services, Swindon Borough Council, Euclid Street, Swindon. firstname.lastname@example.org
• Coun Gary Perkins:
• Coun Nick Martin: