Popular plans proposing new sixth form centre in Swindon stalled

By Jessica Durston - 26 April 2023

  • Images of the site

    Images of the site

Plans to open a new Sixth Form centre in Swindon have been stalled after the owners of the empty site in question are said to have expressed they would prefer a commercial tenant.

The proposed new Sixth Form centre would be based at Arclite House in Swindon.

The space on the site is currently empty and the Park Academies Trust team say it has been identified as a perfect location because it has the required facilities, transport links and is equidistant from both Abbey Park School and Lydiard Park School.

75% of parents and two thirds of students surveyed in March were said to have shown support for the proposed new sixth form centre site.

Most parents surveyed were found to have said that the new site would be ideal for the following key reasons: 

  • Easily accessible for all students within The Park Academies Trust – 74%

  • More bespoke sixth form space and facilities – 75%

  • Improved teaching and learning environment for staff and students – 60%

An offer to lease Arclite House from The Park Academies Trust is reportedly being stalled because the owners - Luton Borough Council - have indicated that they would prefer a commercial client to occupy the site. 

The Park Academies Trust says it hopes that by writing to local MPs, in Swindon and Luton, and to the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, the Luton local authority owners might be persuaded to reconsider the proposed site as a new Sixth Form centre.   

The Trust added that a new Sixth Form centre could be ready for the start of the next academic year in September if it is granted a lease on the building. 

The Park Academies Trust CEO, Benedick Ashmore-Short, has written to the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan MP asking her to intervene, with letters also being sent to the two Swindon MPs; Sir Robert Buckland and Justin Tomlinson. 

The Luton MPs, Sarah Owen and Rachel Hopkins have also been written to by Benedick Ashmore-Short asking them to help convince Luton Borough Council to allow the Trust to go ahead with the new 6th Form Centre plans. 

Benedick Ashmore-Short, CEO, The Park Academies Trust said: ”Our students are hard-working and ambitious and we’ve seen remarkable achievements from Swindon’s sixth formers in recent years with an increase in A level studies and successful applications to top universities.

"It feels as though our students are having a great opportunity taken away from them because the new centre would give the town’s young people even better chances of achieving their academic goals and aspirations.”

Owen Russell, Head of 6th Form, The Park Academies Trust said: “Swindon used to have one the lowest rates of students progressing onto university in the whole country, now we see two thirds of our sixth form leavers entering Higher Education with a third of these securing places at the top universities in the UK.

"We want to expand and encourage even more students to fulfil their dreams but it feels as though Swindon’s sixth formers are being held back by unnecessary bureaucratic red tape.”

Sir Robert Buckland MP, South Swindon, said: “I support the plans for a new site for The Park Academies Trust sixth form centre because it will be a real boost for pupils in Swindon wanting to pursue their post-16 education. The location offers improved facilities and easier access for students, staff and families and the plan is backed by a majority of pupils and parents.

"I hope that a swift agreement can be reached between The Park Academies Trust and the owners of Arclite House so that many of Swindon’s sixth form students can start seeing the benefits of the new site as soon as possible.” 

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