New school plan to cope with demand

PLANS are being put together that could lead to a second free school bid being put forward, on top of the one being prepared for North Swindon by New College.

The Diocese of Bristol is in talks with the council, as well as another school in Swindon, to discuss the possibility of building the school at an as of yet unknown location which would cater for secondary school students.

Support for the free school forms part of a programme to increase the number of places, as there is expected to be a shortage over the coming years as the town expands.

Potentially there could be demand for more than 1,000 extra secondary school places by 2026, so the council is considering a number of options, including talking to other secondary schools about expansion.

At a cabinet meeting next week, council leaders are expected to offer formal support for both the school bids, although they are being fronted by New College and the Diocese of Bristol respectively.

As it stands, the latest plans are at an early stage but the Diocese is looking to set up a Church of England School, catering for around 200 students aged between 13 and 19.

John Swainstone, of the Diocese of Bristol Academies Trust, said: “This is all at a very early stage. The deadline for the bid is May 2, and we are working towards that date in partnership with an outstanding school. I believe there are several site options.”

There are a number of options to provide places being examined by the council, which last year held a consultation with parents to take into account the best route to take.

As part of the process the heads of all the borough’s secondary schools were consulted about the possibility of expansion. However, some have limitations due to location, such as Commonweal, or the funding of the building, such as Nova Hreod, so there are restrictions.

The school which has the most capacity for expansion is the Ridgeway School, which may be used to deal with Wichelstowe and Commonhead housing developments.

Wiltshire Council may also be able to provide spaces for some of the places, through Bradon Forest School, in Purton, and the Royal Wootton Bassett Academy.

Within the report, Paddy Bradley, head of commissioning, economy and attainment, said: “Wiltshire Council has expressed a wish to work with Swindon Borough Council to ensure that secondary school place planning is co-ordinated between the two councils.

“At a recent joint meeting officers and members of both local authorities agreed to co-operate and share data and information as necessary. “

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