Councillor David Renard’s Swindon Advertiser column, 20th April 2017

Councillor David Renard, Leader of the Council

Nearly all primary-aged pupils to get their first choice school

As we finished our long Easter weekend, I was delighted that we were able to start the week on such a positive note with our announcement that we will offer nearly all primary aged pupils a place at their first preference primary school for September 2017.

Indeed, this year actually sees an increase in the figure for first preference rates, with 91.4% matched with their first preference compared to last year’s figure of 90.8%.

Parents could request a place in up to three schools and of the 2,825 on-time applications received by our Admissions Team, we succeeded in offering 98% of parents one of their three school preferences. This compares with 97.9% last year.

As parents will know, priority for places was determined by the relevant schools’ own admission criteria rather than by the Council, and even for parents who missed the deadline every effort has been made to help them as much as possible, with parents offered a place at the next nearest school to have a place available.

Although regrettably we cannot guarantee every child the preferred place, it is a testament to the dedication of our School Admissions Team that they still succeed in offering so many parents their first choice of primary school, year on year. Considerable work goes on behind the scenes to ensure that we have enough primary school places in the parts of the borough where we have a growing population.

But hard work to increase places in existing schools is only part of our education strategy, which strives to achieve the best possible educational opportunities for our young people.

Two new free primary schools: one in north Swindon and and one in Coate

So I was delighted last week with the Department of Education’s announcement that Swindon will receive financial backing for two new free schools. Abbey Farm Educate Together Primary School in the north of town, and Badbury Park Primary School, to be built near Coate Water, will both welcome their first pupils in September and I wish the new pupils and their dedicated teachers and heads the best of luck.

Naturally I was disappointed that our third bid was turned down.  Of course we still have some capacity issues in the north o-f the borough, which is a growing area. The Council has a statutory responsibility to ensure there are enough school places for young people who need them. This can be a challenge when new estates mean new families and there is a high demand for places. But readers can rest assured we will be working hard to achieve the best possible primary school offer in within the Borough.