Choosing the right school for you and your child
One of the most important decisions any parent has to make is what school their children should attend. I know from personal experience how vital it is to make the right choice.
Of course, that word ‘choice’ is the key. With the pressure on school places in Swindon being so great, many parents could be worried that there’ll be few options available to them.
This is especially true for secondary education, with the forecast that an extra 150 school places will be needed in Swindon in just the next five years. By the middle of the next decade, that figure rises to more than 800 – or 27 new forms of entry. It’s a huge challenge.
That’s why I welcome Swindon Borough Council’s consultation process, starting tomorrow, seeking views on how that challenge can be met.
To see the scale of the task, consider the fact that in the past six years the Conservative-controlled council has created nearly 700 new primary school places to meet Swindon’s growing population.
There have been eight new schools and 11 school extensions across the borough. This is an achievement to be applauded, but it also illustrates how many extra children are coming up through the system who will need a secondary school place in the near future.
It is the parents of those children who especially need to ensure their voices are heard.
There are a number of issues to consider: the building of new schools against the expansion of existing schools; the extent to which pupils should be transported around the borough; and whether any new schools should be free schools.
Of course, money is part of the challenge.
That’s why I’m lobbying on behalf of the Fairer 40 Campaign, which is fighting for a better deal for areas like Swindon which don’t currently receive a fair slice of the funding cake. Michael Gove has confirmed that the Government is now reviewing the formula used to calculate the amount of funding per pupil, which is something the previous government never did, incidentally. I will continue to argue Swindon’s case.
Meanwhile I would urge all parents and others with an interest in this issue to take part in this consultation.
There are a number of meetings taking place where council officers will be on hand to answer questions and gather opinions. In South Swindon these are as follows: Lydiard Park Academy, tomorrow; Dorcan Academy, Monday, November 11; East Wichel Community Centre, Wednesday, November 13; and Drove Community Centre, Thursday, November 21.
The time in each case is 5pm to 8pm. The details are on the council’s website at www.swindon.gov.uk/secondaryplaces including a survey questionnaire.
The consultation will run until Friday, November 22.