Robert’s Weekly Column – August 28th 2019

As you may already know from reading my previous Adver columns and articles about events I have hosted and also attended, over the past 19 months, I have been working closely with Swindon Seniors Forum in a campaign to tackle loneliness in the town.

Loneliness is a problem that can affect people of all ages, but as we get older, risk factors which lead to loneliness begin to increase and converge. The impact of loneliness can be devastating and impact on both the physical and mental wellbeing of those suffering. It can be costly to the individual as well as society.

I have held two local events bringing together all key local organisations from different sectors to share information about some of the excellent work that is already taking place and to discuss what we all can do to deal further with this problem in Swindon.

As part of my work on loneliness, I recently met with the Swindon Live at Home Scheme. This is a fantastic initiative that offers services and support to help older people lead independent, active and fulfilled lives.

Swindon Live at Home offers older people advice and information on local services and activities, signposting, a quarterly newsletter, a befriending service at home or by phone, lunch clubs, outings and day trips, friendship and social groups and exercise and dance classes. There is a small charge for activities, but costs are kept down through fundraising.

The scheme offers a variety of volunteering opportunities and includes training and support. These include telephone or visitor befriending, driving a car to help members get to appointments or activities, helping run an activity or social group, fundraising and administration.

If you would like to find out more about services available to you in Swindon, or how to volunteer or fundraise and help tackle loneliness and isolation in Swindon, please email or phone 01793 827771. If you are met with an answerphone, please don’t be put off. Leave a message and a member of staff will call you back.

Following the success of last week’s A Level results, there was further good news this week as Swindon pupils excelled at GCSEs.

Over the past few years, the Government has been reforming the curriculum to ensure that pupils have the knowledge and skills that they need in the 21st century and to put England’s qualifications on a par with those in the highest performing countries in the world.

As part of this process, the Government has consulted extensively with schools, employers and higher and further education institutions. Employers and universities told the Government that they were not satisfied with the capabilities of young people in essential areas such as literacy, use of English and basic numeracy. While exam results were improving year after year, our results in international assessments remained static, whilst some countries overtook us.

The Government has therefore reformed GCSEs and A Levels to better prepare young people for work and further education. The new curriculum and reformed tests and qualifications have been designed to ensure that all students receive rounded, knowledge-rich education that they need.

GCSEs have been reformed to be more rigorous, matching expectations in countries with the higher performing education systems and have a new grade scale. Last year, the new GCSE results began being awarded with these number grades rather than letters – starting with English literature and maths. This year, we have seen the first results in a further 20 new GCSEs, with most of the remaining subjects coming next year and the last few in 2020. You can find more information for students, employers and those who work in education at

I would like to congratulate all of the Swindon pupils and teaching staff who have worked hard and taken the new reforms in their stride, with some schools reporting their best ever GCSE results.