The first stage of new primary, secondary and 6th Form education provision catering for 4 to 19 year olds in North Swindon could open by 2016, if a proposal by New College receives backing from the Department for Education.
An initial application for a grant to develop the project was submitted on 17 January in advance of a full detailed project application in May.
The proposal is for a 420 place primary school, a secondary school for 1,750 11 to 16 year olds, and 250 place 16 to 18 provision. A nursery unit might even be considered.
The lack of primary and secondary places in the area has been well publicised in The Link. By 2016 there is a projected shortfall in North Swindon of over 200 places in Year 7, increasing to about 400 a year. And whilst a new primary school will open in September at Tadpole Farm, another primary will be required in the area to meet demand.
New College principal Graham Taylor, right, said that Justin Tomlinson MP had talked to him about Sixth Form provision in North Swindon and had more recently asked him to consider whether the college could become involved in primary and secondary education in North Swindon.
He said: “We looked at the data after Swindon Council started a consultation on school places in 2013 and decided that we could create excellent provision in North Swindon.
“Over the last ten years our in-house team has had the experience of successfully assembling and managing five major capital building projects on our site worth some £26 million.”
Mr Taylor, added that another motivation is to improve the quality of education in the town. The free school application states that only 52 per cent of Swindon school leavers gain five A* to C including English and Maths at GCSE and Swindon is ranked 144 out of 151 local education authority areas.
“We want to help raise the standard of education in Swindon,” said Mr Taylor. “This is a very exciting project which I’m sure will be supported by parents across North Swindon.”
Justin Tomlinson is delighted by the New College commitment. “Graham Taylor and his team have proven that they can deliver on major educational projects. They have a great reputation; it’s fantastic that they’re rising to the challenge.”
Abbey Meads resident Kevin Gray, who has been publicising the school place crisis and campaigning for a free school has joined the free school project board as the Strategic Community Lead for North Swindon. He said: “For the past year we have been working hard to raise awareness of the issue amongst residents and local councillors. I’m glad Justin Tomlinson and New College have responded so positively to our plight.
“New College brings lots of knowledge and experience to the bid. This announcement will show local residents that we are serious about building a new school for North Swindon and dramatically improve our chances of succeeding.
“I look forward to working with New College to ensure that the bid remains an initiative designed, developed and driven by the community for the community.”
A site for the free school has yet to be identified but Justin believes the land adjacent to the new Abbey Stadium on St Andrew’s Ridge might be a possibility.
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