One issue that I have been campaigning for over the years has been to secure an improvement in the funding arrangements for Swindon's schools. The existing formula that was set by the last Labour Government meant that Swindon's schoolchildren were treated unfairly compared to many other parts of our country. I was on the Front Bench in the Commons this week when the Education Secretary announced significant increases to school funding as part of a new funding formula. All of Swindon’s schools will receive a financial boost and share some of the £2.6bn increase in the core schools budget. These increases will support our teaching staff in their plans to continually improve outcomes and should help our children to access the outstanding education they deserve.
I have offered my help to Hazelwood Academy in their struggle with Swindon Borough Council over cuts to the school crossing patrol budget in Toothill, as a result of this Hazelwood have been unable to provide a crossing warden since February. Headteacher Suzanne Lloyd has rightly been urging the council to look at appropriate measures to help protect pupils, I give my complete support to Hazelwood Academy and local residents on this important safety issue.
Last year, I was honoured to become a Patron of Greatwood Charity, which is a farm providing a home for retired racehorses in the heart of Wiltshire. It is the only centre in the country that uses ex-racehorses to help disadvantaged children and children with special educational needs, which includes children and young people from schools in Swindon. Greatwood takes in and looks after ex-racehorses and uses them to provide educational programmes for young people aged 5-24 with cognitive, physical, emotional and social challenges or disabilities. I was delighted to support them last week for an awards event marking the 11th anniversary of their Educational Programme.
High Speed 2 (HS2) has been in the news this week. The award of £6.6bn of contracts to build the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham has now been made. The importance of HS2 to Swindon's economy is often overlooked. Last year, Swindon’s Amey were awarded part of a £300m contract for HS2 enabling works. Swindon’s gateway to HS2 was secured earlier this year when legislation was passed allowing a new station to be built at Old Oak Common in northwest London, it is here that the Great Western Line will interchange with Crossrail and HS2. Swindon has a railway heritage of which we can all be proud, therefore Swindon residents should welcome projects to make Britain’s railways fit for the 21st century. At a national level, phase one of HS2 is expected to support 16,000 jobs, promoting economic growth and driving regional regeneration. Locally, modernisation of the Great Western route has already helped to fuel Swindon’s economic growth this decade, as Amey was heavily involved in electrification of the line. Connection to the rail-hub at Old Oak Common will further boost Swindon’s connectivity with the rest of the country.
Yesterday, I was honoured to meet HRH The Princess Royal who visited Excalibur Communications in West Swindon to celebrate twenty years of a growing local business. It was also an opportunity to see and celebrate the charities supported by Excalibur and its employees, including the local charity BIOS who provide youth community outreach and the Younite Trust that works with schools in the developing world. This event was a great showcase for Swindon’s culture of strong, growing businesses and social responsibility.