Free schooling scheme ‘vital’
AN ACTION plan has been created to establish Swindon’s first free secondary school despite only two parents turning up to a public meeting.
Kevin Gray, a governor at Isambard Community School and two concerned parents were at the meeting at the north Swindon school on Thursday night.
To receive funding in time for the 2015 deadline, when pupils look set to outnumber places at secondary schools by more than 200 places, action needs to start now, said Mr Gray.
Figures based on the current levels in primary schools show by 2016, 717 children will need a place at secondary school, while Nova Hreod and Isambard each have only 240 places, meaning 237 kids will not get a place.
By 2018 that number looks set to rise to 790 children looking for places, not including the families arriving from any new housing developments.
It was agreed at the meeting to speak to governors at primary schools to see if they would like to form a working party to get the ball rolling.
Then 360 parents, whose children will be going into Year 7 in 2015/16, will have to express an interest in sending their child to the school.
If the free school does go ahead, Mr Gray added there would be enough pupils being educated in north Swindon to establish a sixth-form college.
“Parents should have the choice to have their children educated close by,” said Mr Gray.
“Large proportions of people coming to the area believe there will be facilities to support them but there is a very good chance that there won’t be.
“We want to redress the balance and make sure those who want their children educated locally will be able to do so.”
He added there is a sense that parents believe ‘things will be alright on the night’ but if steps do not start happening within the next few months then places in the area will not match the demand.
Father-of-three David Gerrish, 47, who was also at the meeting, said he would be happy to join the working party.
He said when he moved to Swindon he believed there would be enough schools for his children but he was left disappointed as two of them now have to travel.
“I have seen the impact it had on my children having to get on a bus at 7.30am every day,” said Mr Gerrish.
“Everybody should support this plan because it’s going to impact on everyone.”
Victoria Keane, of Haydon End, said she was not sure whether there would be places available for her son when he leaves primary school.
She said: “I’m very concerned. As parents we need to do something. I want there to be choices for my child.”
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson was at the meeting and said he would help with gathering members for the working party.
If funding is awarded to the group then pupils at the new community-led school will probably be educated at Isambard for the first year while another venue is built.
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