Just after I got home last night, I got a call from the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, to let me know that he has given the go ahead for the Quest Academy Coloma Trust to open in September on the site of Selsdon High.
This is really good news. There had been fears that the uncertainty caused by the Government’s decision to cancel the Building Schools for the Future programme - under which the school was due to be rebuilt - and review the system for allocating capital investment for schools could lead to the Academy sponsor - the Coloma Trust - pulling out. If that had happened, parents who had chosen to send their children to the Academy in September, but would not have chosen Selsdon High, would have been rightly furious.
I have been lobbying hard behind the scenes for the Academy to be approved. I am pleased that the Secretary of State has provided sufficient assurance for the agreement to be signed (he has said that he will be working with the Coloma Trust to reduce costs with the exact amount of capital funding to be confirmed after the announcement of the results of the Government’s spending review in October) and I’m grateful to the Coloma Trust and Coloma School for the constructive way they have dealt with this issue over the last few weeks.
We now need to focus on ensuring that sufficient funding is allocated in October. I have written to the Secretary of State inviting him or one of his Ministers to come and visit the school and see for themselves why it needs to be rebuilt.
I am confident that under the leadership of Maureen Martin we will see a rapid improvement in standards and that increasing numbers of local parents will feel happy to send their children to the school - as we have seen at the Oasis Academy Shirley Park since it replaced Ashburton last September.