With the summer holidays drawing to a close, thoughts are fast turning to the new school term.
I am absolutely delighted that this academic year will see a brand-new Cheltenham school officially open its doors to students. This week I paid a second visit to the £30million High School Leckhampton. It looks fantastic. Teachers and support staff have been getting facilities in place for pupils. Bookcases are being filled, desks are being moved into place and digital technologies connected.
The Hall, Drama and Activities Studio, and Sports Hall are also now ready for use. Soon they will be humming to the sound of excited students learning new skills, growing in confidence, and getting ready for the next stage of their lives.
For me, it feels like a huge milestone. That’s because within weeks of becoming Cheltenham’s MP in 2015, I vowed to campaign for a new school. I did so because I was almost immediately confronted by the ‘Leckhampton Triangle’ crisis, with a steady stream of distressed parents arriving in my constituency surgery unable to secure places in nearby secondary schools. With projected population growth it was clear that this difficult problem was only going to get worse.
So I am delighted that seven years and £30m of public money later, the High School Leckhampton is ready to open. Although work on the cycle paths and footpaths is not quite signed off, I have been assured that measures are in place to ensure that the pupils can walk and cycle to school safely.
Pupils will be able to make their way down Kidnappers Lane, along either the finished path or a temporary path that has been marked out for them. Farm Lane will be open to traffic both ways, including from the Shurdington Road, on a three-way traffic light.
Education is the greatest gift we can give to the next generation, and I look forward to Head Teacher Helen Wood opening an exciting new chapter in Cheltenham’s proud educational history.
[Column first published in the Glos Echo]