This week, I held talks in Parliament with an official whose upcoming decision will have a major impact on education in Cheltenham: the Regional Schools Commissioner.
I wanted to meet her to discuss the proposal for a new school for Cheltenham, something I campaigned for prior to my election in 2015. It was part of my ‘5-point Plan’ for Cheltenham, drawn up following conversations with local parents. It is now starting to take shape.
Academy Trusts have been invited to submit their plans to become the official ‘sponsor’ for the £30million school. It’s good news that there’s so much local interest in running it. I’m keen that we make use of that local knowledge and experience.
The final decision rests with the Commissioner, advised by an independent panel of head teachers and education experts. She has confirmed that she will start assessing the bids after applications close in a couple of weeks’ time and once Gloucestershire County Council has had its say. I’m told we can expect to learn the outcome by April.
Thereafter, the sponsor will consult on possible sites. This should take place in June, with the new school to open in September 2019. There’s a lot to do and little time to do it. The clock is ticking.
And in further positive news for local schools, I am delighted that Balcarras has recently been awarded a six-figure grant from the Government’s £25m Strategic School Improvement Fund.
This additional cash is to help Balcarras’ excellent team continue to close the attainment gap in mathematics at KS2, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. It comes on top of the hundreds of pounds of additional money won for every Cheltenham secondary pupil, from All Saints’ to Bournside, following the marathon campaign for fair funding so brilliantly supported by local parents and teachers.
And thanks to the hard work of teachers in the classroom, those additional resources are being put to work improving the life chances of the next generation.