New free schools welcomed by Swindon Borough Council but number of places still needs to be addressed

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Two new Swindon free schools have been approved by The Government but the number of school places needed in the town still needs to be addressed according to Swindon Borough Council.

The two new schools will be Abbey Farm Educate Together Primary School in North Swindon and Badbury Park Primary School in South Swindon.

This comes after applications for six free schools were submitted to The Government in the Autumn.

The announcement came as the Department for Education revealed that 131 new free schools had been approved – the largest number during this Parliament.

Swindon Borough Council leader David Renard said: “We are delighted to get two schools but we believe we still have some capacity issues to address in North Swindon and we will have to sit down and see how the numbers match up.

“The council has a statutory responsibility to ensure there is enough school places for young people who need them. It can be very difficult these days because new estates mean new families and there is a high demand for places.

“Since 2004 the Conservative Administration has invested heavily in new schools across the Borough to replace the leaking, crumbling inadequate buildings we inherited. Swindon’s pupils and teachers are now to continue benefiting as a result of these additional schools.

“We haven’t had feedback about why Great Western Academy was turned down so we don’t fully understand why two were a success and one wasn’t. We would like to understand for any future bids that go in by providers to ensure they are a success.”

 

Free schools are one of the highest performing groups of non-selective state schools, with 29% of those inspected rated outstanding by Ofsted. Since 2014, more than 80% of mainstream free schools have been approved in areas where there was a need for more school places, while others are opened in response to parental demand to create competition and drive up standards where existing provision is not adequate.

The Labour Group Shadow Lead for Education, Cllr Carol Shelley, said: “I welcome government investment for new schools in areas where they are needed and I congratulate the academy trusts on their successful bids.

“However it is worrying that the government has turned down another free school in an area that is again needed. This goes to the heart of why Labour is against the government’s Free Schools programme. Rather than solely focussing on delivering school places in areas where they’re needed, it’s a popularity contest based on factors not exclusively related to increasing school places.

“I think the Council now need to review the Great Western Academy bid and make sure in the next round of school bids we get a more successful outcome, as the school places are needed.”

Education Secretary Justine Greening said: “We need schools that can bring out the best in every single child no matter where they’re growing up, how much their parents earn, or however different their talents are.

“That’s why these new schools are so important – they give us the school places we need for the future, and they also give parents more choices to find a great school place in their area that’s right for their child.”

124 free schools have opened since 2015, with a further 376 set to open by 2020 – including the schools announced today – which means the government is on track to meet its manifesto commitment of opening 500 more new free schools by September 2020.

As part of its work to open more free schools, the government has created a new body – LocatED. The organisation is made up of experienced property specialists to help speed up the process of acquiring sites for new schools and get the best value for the taxpayer.

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