New schools give choice to pupils

John Holdich, leader of Peterborough City Council

Sunday, 12th March 2017, 2:00 pm
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:08 am
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The wait to learn whether your child has gained a place at the school of your choice can be nerve-wracking for any parent.

I went through it with my own children and am going through it again now with my grandchildren.

Getting the right school for your child is a key part of them doing well in their education and being able to achieve their full potential. That is why our admissions team works closely with schools and neighbouring authorities to ensure as many parents as possible receive a place for their child at a preferred school.

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We have a strong track record of achieving well above the national average for the number of children offered a place at one of their three preferred schools, and I am pleased to see this trend continuing. This year a total of 2,465 applications were received on time and 98 per cent of pupils have been offered one of their three preferences, with 87 per cent of pupils set to start at their preferred school this September.

This is up from 81 per cent in 2014.

To have almost nine out of every 10 children being offered places at their first choice school is a great achievement. Peterborough has a rising population – the city has the fourth highest growth in the UK – and this meant we had almost another 100 students to accommodate than in 2016, or a four per cent increase in children applying for places.

Two main reasons why we’re able to buck the national trend on preferred choices are that we’ve consistently delivered thousands of new places - through expanding schools across the city - and have worked with partners to get funding for new school builds.

Recently, children have settled in well at the new building for West Town Primary Academy on the site of the former Peterborough District Hospital and an extension of St Michael’s Church School in Cardea has been completed. Looking ahead, the new Hampton Gardens Secondary School opens in September, with the first pupils now notified of their offer of a place.

This year’s capital build programme also includes plans for pre-construction projects for expansion works to Jack Hunt School, Ormiston Bushfield Academy, Nene Park Academy and Oakdale Primary School.

Providing additional school places is one of the ways we are proactively meeting the challenges presented by our population growth. To all those pupils who have found out where they will be going in September, I hope there are many enjoyable years of education ahead.

With school sites being expanded and new buildings created there is an obvious need for construction companies to make this happen.

A new framework aimed at making sure local companies are the first-choice for future council building projects, such as schools, has just been agreed. This is welcome news and set to be a big bonus for both the local economy and employment. An assessment process and collaboration with the Cambridgeshire Chambers of Commerce has resulted in nine local companies making the grade for the Peterborough Contractors Framework. They are now automatically eligible to bid for projects priced up to £5million. In recognition that some of these successful companies will need to sub-contract services for the bigger jobs, a ‘Meet the Contractors’ event is planned for Friday 21 April at Peterborough Rugby Club to open up opportunities for local smaller contractors and consultants.

A big thank you to Peterborough Highway Services for completing the improvement works to Junction 20 of the Paston Parkway ahead of schedule and to budget.

Many of you will be familiar with this junction and know how busy it can get. These works will help to increase capacity, improve traffic flow and reduce congestion. Our gratitude goes out to the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership, which provided the funding for the scheme. This is another major project which is vital for the city’s current and future growth so thank you to motorists and nearby residents for their patience and understanding while these work have been carried out in recent months.