Secondary School Provision: Lyde Green

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:20 pm on 23rd September 2020.

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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.