Kareen Boyd of Old Town writes to Blunsdon, Haydon Wick and Highworth Parish Councils
I would ask that this item be brought before the next Parish Council Meeting.
In simple terms, the Swindon Borough Council statement that additional school places in 2014 for North Swindon will be satisfied by the Tadpole Farm School is not supported by the council’s own data.
Whilst every parent has the right to apply for their school of choice, school place planning and the attendant DfE funding has been based on the child’s location.
North Swindon reasonably expected two new primary schools – one in 2014 and the other for the 1,700 home Tadpole Farm development.
Swindon Council has repeatedly stated that they are providing additional school places for North Swindon in 2014. Yet the council’s data shows North Swindon had 540 reception places in 2012 and will have 540 reception places in 2014.
Its own birth rate data shows that these 540 places are needed even without the introduction of the Tadpole Farm development.
All that the Tadpole Farm School and the Orchid Vale extension will do is replace the 90 temporary reception places in North Swindon which were introduced in 2012.
Crest Nicholson are fulfilling their obligation to build a school within Tadpole Farm earlier than agreed (for who knows what reason or concessions?), but there is nothing to say that this school is for the children from Tadpole Farm.
The Department for Education have arguably already paid for a new school for North Swindon needs in 2009. Having granted £6,374,000 to Swindon Borough Council the Cabinet decided to allocate all these funds to the Class Solutions 420 pupil prototype school building on the Croft site in Old Town. Therefore, who is to pay for this missing primary school, when and where will it be?
In the meantime, where will the children from the 1,700 home Tadpole Farm development go to school?
Old Town already has overcapacity and the Town Centre will have a new school in 2014. The White Horse Federation are currently seeking government approval to open the Croft School to all year groups in September 2015, three years ahead of schedule. The council’s data did not and does not support this need and, as predicted, the majority of pupils are not local.
Why is this relevant to North Swindon parents and Parish Councils?
It is a minimum of 6.67 miles from Oakhurst School to the Croft School. East Wichel also has capacity and is a fraction less distant.
Why are North Swindon ward councillors so quiet on this matter? Perhaps they don’t understand or are afraid to go public.
If the Croft School is permitted to open in all year groups in 2015 without a full, open and transparent review of school places across Swindon, will North Swindon children have to travel to Old Town?
Might Cllrs Foley and Renard state all the council has to do is to provide sufficient places within the borough, it’s up to the parents to get them there?
Openness and transparency have never been more needed.
From Kevin Gray, Abbey Meads resident who is leading the bid for a Free School in North Swindon
Firstly let me say that I welcome letters like this to the Parish and any similar ones sent to councillors and local MPs. There can never be enough people asking the right questions of our local politicians to ensure that they understand the difference between the statistics on a page and the thoughts and opinions of local people.
Some time ago I was made aware of the discrepancy between the provision at secondary level in North Swindon (via Isambard and Nova Hreod) and the number of children coming out of primary education from 2016.
In 2016 some 200 families will have to choose to educate their children outside of their local area and by 2019 that will have risen to nearly 400 (based on existing throughput and known housing planning).
The council have responded with a paper that suggests that in the short term there is sufficient capacity within existing schools in the town and that the need for new schools will not really occur until 2018 when new areas of development come online. They cite that parents are already choosing locations out of area for their children and that this is therefore something parents are comfortable doing.
But this does not take into account the history (where parents were forced to send older siblings and are now sending younger ones to the same place) and they seem to have forgotten the angst not having enough local places that occured in parents some seven years ago.
Having said that, the local authority and local councillors are not unaware of the issues. I have been running an initiative for some time in the local area to construct a Free School bid (really the only way to get a new school today) for a new secondary school and a sixth form in North Swindon.
Ward councillors have been verbally supportive and North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson is actively supportive of the issue. Councillors and members of the local authority have offered support as we need it.
Land is a big issue and I would like to see more movement on positive, realistic suggestions on where a new school could be sited – any bid that is made is going to have to tackle this issue.
If parents in North Swindon have concerns (and they should) then they can help by signing up at the following location (where there is also lots of helpful information) http://northswindon11to19.org.
If anyone wants to be actively involved then please attend the meeting on Tuesday 14 January, 7pm, at Haydon Wick Parish Council Offices, Thames Avenue.
All are welcome as long as you are willing to give up a small amount of time to help.