STEADY progress is being made on putting a bid together for a new free school in North Swindon, with several potential sites having been identified.

New College is behind the bid and is gathering the signatures needed to show there is demand for the school, as well as identifying a potential site.

Initially it was hoped a formal bid would be submitted in May but the Department of Education has informed the college the next round of applications will now take place in the autumn.

In order for a school bid to be successful it needs to demonstrate there is sufficient support from parents in the area. As a result, 375 signatures are required, of which 150 had been received by Friday lunchtime.

Several possible sites also need to be identified for the school, which will be a new build. If the bid is successful then the DofE will purchase the land and construct the school before effectively handing control over to New College.

Two of the sites being looked at are Tadpole Farm and land around the former Motorola factory, now operated by Vygon.

The principal of New College Graham Taylor said he is pleased with how the bid is progressing and the support received so far.

He said: “If we were asked to submit all the paperwork for the bid then we could do that tomorrow. What we are working on are the signatures and finding potential sites.

“We have a very good educational case as Swindon needs about three new secondary schools. Once the reasoning behind the bid is explained to people I have found they all come around to supporting it.

“The next few months are going to be spent evaluating our land options and gathering support.”

Signatures must come from parents living in North Swindon who would potentially send their children to school, although it is not a binding contract.

Initially, New College was looking at a through school that would cater for children from nursery until A-levels. However, following advice on the demand for places, the bid is now only for youngsters aged 11-18. The bid is being supported by North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson.

He said: “There is overwhelming community support for our free school bid. In all the conversations we have had with the experts in Government our bid is shown to be very, very strong and I will continue to do all I can to support this application.”

To find out more information about the school visit www.newschool fornorthswin