Wednesday 4 June 2014

Swindon School Places Bungle

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It is estimated that there will be a dire shortage of school places in north Swindon over the next few years with a predicted shortfall of 200 Year 7 places in 2016 which is set to rise to 400 by 2019.  If a new school is not built soon to accommodate the expansion of this district it is inevitable that children will have to be bussed around to other parts of the town to other schools.  The situation is so serious that some parents with primary age children are considering moving from the area.

The campaign to launch a bid for the new school started at the beginning of the year and they were hoping to submit the bid in May.  However, in order to launch a bid, they first needed to get evidence that the school would be oversubscribed for the first two years after opening.  This is done by collecting signatures from parents that say they will send their children to the school.  The New College team reported at the beginning of May that they did not have a sufficient number of signatures from parents to submit the bid in May but they were almost half way there and support was growing and they would try again in September.

Towards the end of May the New College team dropped the bombshell on their New School for North Swindon website that they had just received confirmation from the New Schools Network on precisely who the signatures need to come from to count as evidence of demand.  These signatures need to come from parents that will send their children to the new school in the first two years and from students themselves that will attend the sixth form.  Why this came as a complete revelation to the team after months of campaigning is unclear since this information was freely available on the New Schools Network website and mentioned time and again in guidance publications.

So after months of sending out leaflets, setting up websites, advertising and collecting signatures from parents that were never going to be able to send their children to the school, the team reported that they had signatures from parents representing just 59 children for the secondary school and not a single signature from students themselves to count as evidence of need for the sixth form.  The New College team say they need signatures representing a minimum of 750 children.  Indeed the group’s sign up page on their website did not, up until recently, even have the facility for students to sign up for the sixth form.

It now looks likely that they will not be able to collect sufficient signatures to launch the bid in September and so the parents and children of north Swindon will not get their new school for 2016 as hoped.

It is incredible that the New College team have not made any sort of apology to the residents of north Swindon for what can only be described as a calamitous error.

Andrew Wilkins

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