Secondary School Provision: Lyde Green

– in the House of Commons at 8:19 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Rebecca Harris.)

Photo of Chris Skidmore Chris Skidmore Conservative, Kingswood 8:20 pm, 23rd September 2020

In the past 10 years that I have been fortunate to be the Member of Parliament for Kingswood, I have been proud to have campaigned for and helped to deliver several new schools in my constituency, including King’s Oak Academy primary school, the Digitech Studio School on the site of the former Grange School, a new special school for Kingswood that is due to open shortly and a new primary school for Lyde Green. In addition, since 2010 many more schools have received funding to expand their premises, including Barley Close Community Primary School, Mangotsfield Primary School and Beacon Rise Primary School.

These new schools and this new investment would not have been possible without the funding and support from the Department for Education and the Minister for School Standards, my right hon. Friend Nick Gibb, who is in his place today. He knows well my commitment to securing the good school places needed in my local area in order to meet demand and raise standards. He has met me and delegations that I have brought from South Gloucestershire Council on many occasions over the past decade. He has even come to visit local schools in my constituency. I thank him dearly again for the commitment that he has shown.

Tonight I wish to raise with the Minister yet another campaign for a new school—this time, new co-located primary and secondary schools. It is the largest school investment project that I have ever called for. I am incredibly excited to be supporting this proposal for a school to be situated in and at the heart of the newly built Lyde Green community. I have been running this campaign with my neighbour, my hon. Friend Luke Hall, because Lyde Green straddles both our constituencies. I assure the Minister that my hon. Friend is as committed and passionate about delivering this project as I am, and I am delighted that he has been able to attend this debate. I congratulate him on his recent appointment as Minister of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Given his new role, he is unable to speak in this debate—it is important that our constituents recognise that—but that does not diminish the fact that he has been championing this project behind the scenes with me. Just the other week, we both visited the location of the site where the potential new school might be built.

Over the past 10 years, my constituency—like many others, including that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate—has seen growth in new housing. This has taken place primarily in the entirely new village of Lyde Green, which, when complete, will number around 2,500 houses, many of which are family homes. The Minister gave permission for the £5.7 million Lyde Green Primary School following a previous campaign I ran, way back in October 2014. The funding resulted in the new primary school being delivered within a year and fully open within two, which is testament to the speed and efficiency of South Gloucestershire Council and the educational trusts in our area in meeting the commitments that they have signed and agreed. Indeed, South Gloucestershire Council has secured land and the financial contributions for 15 new primary schools and two new secondary schools, which are being delivered over a 10-year period. To date, the council is able to evidence the successful delivery of five new primary schools and their phases since 2013. I pay tribute to and acknowledge the fantastic leadership of Councillor Erica Williams, Councillor Toby Savage and Councillor Jon Hunt, who, as executive members for education on the council during that period, have spearheaded some truly vital work across the district. I also take this opportunity to recognise the campaigning efforts of many Conservative councillors in South Gloucestershire, most notably that of Councillor Colin Hunt, who has campaigned vigilantly and vigorously over the past 20 years for a secondary school to be delivered as part of this new and flourishing Lyde Green community.

To meet this rising demand and in particular the demand for school places in Lyde Green—principally as the first pupils who have been educated at the fantastic £5.7 million Lyde Green Primary School will move to a secondary setting in September 2022—we need to act now to provide the secondary school that Lyde Green deserves and, indeed, was promised as part of the section 106 agreement with the developers of the Lyde Green site.

In addition, further primary school places are needed to meet the demand of the community. Again, those places were agreed as part of the development’s initial planning permission. In particular, to meet demand in Lyde Green, my hon. Friend the Member for Thornbury and Yate and I are campaigning first for a 420-place primary school to be delivered by September ’22. That school will provide for children aged between four and 11. Secondly, we are campaigning for a new 900-place secondary school to be open by September ’22. That would be made up of 450 places required to mitigate the impact of new housing that I have spoken about, and also 450 places to meet basic need growth for the whole area of south Gloucestershire. Basic need refers to the growth of the existing secondary school age population, which at the moment exceeds the current number of places in south Gloucestershire secondary schools.

As I am sure the Minister is aware, South Gloucestershire Council is seeking to commission the new secondary school via the Department for Education’s ongoing wave 14 free schools programme. As part of that programme—the bid that is now open is wave 14—South Gloucestershire and Stroud Academy Trust, the delivery partners, known as SGSAT, has submitted a bid for a new secondary school at Lyde Green to meet the demand for 900 places for the 11-to-16 age range. That bid has been shortlisted by the Department, and SGSAT attended an interview as part of the process.

Following the interview round, I understand that the Department will determine which free school projects nationally will receive formal approval, which I hope will happen, to use ministerial phraseology, to which I am accustomed—I should probably put on record that I have been a Minister in the Department for Education not once, but twice, I enjoyed it so much—“in due course”.

I want to use this debate tonight to highlight my determination about this individual bid for a new secondary school at Lyde Green. It is essential not only for the Lyde Green community, but for the wider south Gloucestershire area if the local authority is to meet its statutory duty to place all pupils in secondary school provision, given the demographic uplift in demand locally.

I put on record also, in advance of the outcome of the wave 14 free school bid process, that time is tight and time is getting tighter. As I have mentioned, September ’22 is the end date to deliver the new school buildings and, as a result, South Gloucestershire Council has already developed an outline design and submitted that for planning approval. In advance of any potential wave 14 successful bid—God willing—I want to reassure the Minister that, as a result of previous agreement with developers, so many of the important milestones have already been reached and are already in place. The council has already secured 2.83 hectares of land for the second primary school and new secondary school provision. The land designation for the new school was reflected in the original masterplan for the development site. Following site investigations of the land, the council has identified some very specific site constraints and, in order to overcome those constraints, the council has renegotiated the school site boundaries. Drawings of the revised school site have been prepared by the development consortium, Emersons Green Urban Village, which I would be happy to share with the Minister and his free schools team overseeing the wave 14 bid process. The plan shows a revised school site location and infrastructure road layout, and the amalgamation of two previously separate potential school sites, including an amendment to the local centre land to provide for part of the revised full school site. It also demonstrates indicative school buildings within the new school site, as well as adjacent residential parcels and how they are being planned within the revised masterplan layout.

The council is in a strong position to deliver new school provision for September 2022, which is reflected in the following considerations. Working with sponsor trusts, the council has developed an outline design and submitted it for planning approval. That means that the scheme will be ready for contractor selection next month, in October. Planning permission will be in place by November 2020, and construction could commence from June 2021. At every stage of the initial process, there has been positive engagement with the local community, and current year 5 children attending Lyde Green Primary School anticipate that they will be able to express a preference for the new Lyde Green secondary school at secondary transfer in September 2022. No contentious issues have been raised in response to the design proposals.

That is significant progress in developing the scheme and reflects the relatively short period of time in which to design, procure and build the new school ready for September 2022. It is for this reason that I have called today’s debate: to highlight to the Minister that we are shovel-ready, as it were—ready and more than willing to get going on a new secondary school, along with a primary school, co-located on the same site, which is more than much needed by the growing Lyde Green community. As the local Member of Parliament, I would be honoured if he and his Department considered this wave 14 bid as quickly as possible. It is a strong bid, a desperately needed bid, and a bid that will help to transform secondary school provision in my local area. I place my faith in the Minister. He has delivered for me many times before, transforming the lives of young people across my constituency, for which I thank him. I hope that he can deliver once more.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education) 8:32 pm, 23rd September 2020

I congratulate my right hon. Friend Chris Skidmore on securing the debate. I listened carefully to his speech, and I know how instrumental he has been in securing new schools for his constituency and for parents in his area. I know at first hand how committed he is to ensuring that standards of education in schools in his constituency are high. I pay tribute to him for his work over many years in developing education policy, most recently in his role as Universities Minister.

As my right hon. Friend has explained, Lyde Green has grown significantly over the last five years, with developments that are to include 2,500 new homes, a large science park, and other business and industrial developments. Although there is an open primary school in Lyde Green—thanks to my right hon. Friend—there is currently no secondary school. As he is aware, given the changing demographics, the need for a new secondary school is now under consideration.

Since 2010, the Government have worked hard to drive up academic standards. Our aim has been to ensure that every state school is a good school, teaching a rigorous and broad curriculum, with world-class qualifications and high standards of behaviour. During that time we have seen standards rise. As at March 2019, 86% of schools were graded good or outstanding by Ofsted, compared with 68% in 2010. Ensuring high-quality education in south Gloucestershire is a priority for my right hon. Friend, as it is for the Government. Primary school results across the local authority are good, with over 84% of primary schools having been as assessed by Ofsted as either good or outstanding. Of the 17 secondary school in south Gloucestershire, eight are graded by Ofsted as good.

Since 2010, the number of academies nationally has grown from 200 to over 8,500, including free schools, and four out of 10 state-funded primary and secondary schools are now part of an academy trust. When the opportunity for schools to become academies arose, 13 out of 15 south Gloucestershire secondary schools took the opportunity to convert. With a further conversion planned in January and two new secondary free schools successfully opened in recent years, there has been a significant change in the education landscape.

It is clear that the presence of strong multi-academy trusts is starting to have an impact in south Gloucestershire. The six previously inadequate secondary schools that are now sponsored are beginning to show improvements. For example, Greenshaw Learning Trust was introduced into the area and sponsored Yate Academy in September 2017, and it has demonstrated rapid impact. The Progress 8 score has moved from minus 0.48 in 2017 to plus one in 2019, which means that it is well above the national average in terms of the progress that its pupils make. Hanham Woods Academy, with the support of the Cabot Learning Federation, came out of special measures and was graded good by Ofsted in November 2019.

As a former Minister in the Department, my right hon. Friend will know that we are increasing funding by £2.6 billion in 2020-21, by £4.8 billion in 2021-22 and by £7.1 billion in 2022-23, compared with 2019-20. That is in addition to the £1.5 billion a year that we will continue to provide to fund additional pension costs for teachers over the next three years. The national funding formula continues to direct funding where it is most needed. South Gloucestershire will receive 3.8% more per-pupil funding in 2021-22—above the national average of 3.1%—which amounts to an additional £6.9 million based on provisional allocations and will take its total funding to over £177 million.

I turn to the question of secondary provision in Lyde Green. Until now, based on demographics, a school has not been needed in this area, but there is now an increasing need for places for secondary school-age pupils in this part of south Gloucestershire, which is projected to put pressure on the school system from 2022 onwards. To date, the deficit in places for year 7 pupils in this area—88 in 2019 and 106 in 2020—has been accommodated by local secondary schools. The largest group of pupils attend Downend School, and other pupils attend Mangotsfield School and Winterbourne Academy. However, as this demographic trend continues, the schools taking these extra pupils will no longer have the capacity to accommodate increasing numbers of pupils, and therefore an alternative solution will be needed.

Through the free schools programme, the Government have funded thousands of new good school places and opened schools across the country. As of 1 September, there are 558 open free schools, 49 university technical colleges and 22 studio schools. Those will provide more than 340,000 places when at capacity. We have approved a further 222 applications from groups that we are now working with to establish those schools. Of the mainstream free schools approved since 2014, 86% have been in areas where there was a need for more school places, and Ofsted’s latest information shows that 86% of all free schools with inspection reports published by the end of August are rated good or outstanding.

The purpose of free schools is to deliver choice, innovation and higher standards. We want them to challenge the status quo and drive wider improvement, injecting fresh approaches and drawing in talent and expertise from a wide variety of groups and backgrounds.

In 2019, seven of the top 15 Progress 8 scores for state-funded schools in England were achieved by free schools, including three of the top five in the country: Eden Boys’ School in Birmingham, Eden Girls’ School in Coventry and Michaela Community School in Brent. Secondary free schools are among the highest-performing state-funded schools in the country, providing a world class education to their students. For example, Michaela Community School was proud to announce its first wave of excellent GCSE results in 2019—54% of all grades awarded were level 7 and above, which is equivalent to A to A*. The proportion of disadvantaged pupils at the school is above the national average. We want to do more to unleash that kind of successful innovation in areas of the country where it is needed most of all, so that children, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to fulfil their potential.

My hon. Friend mentioned wave 14. Applications for wave 14—the latest wave of the free schools programme—had a key focus on targeting areas most in need of good school places. We received a total of 89 applications and we have funding for up to 30 new schools. As my hon. Friend knows—he mentioned it in his speech—an application for a secondary free school in Lyde Green was progressed to the interview stage and is still going through the national assessment process. Covid-19 has unfortunately delayed the original timetable, but we have been able to complete interviews online. We expect to announce the names of successful applicants later this autumn, or in my hon. Friend’s words, “in due course”, as he parodied.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success in securing time for this debate, which enabled him to raise an issue of concern to his constituents in the Lyde Green area. The Government recognise that in future years there will be an increasing need for more secondary school places in the Lyde Green area. The regional schools commissioners team will continue to work closely with the local authority on plans for meeting that need and the Department will announce the free schools decisions later this term.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.