Here is south Manchester we are very lucky to have some of the best and most popular primary schools in the whole of Manchester.
I know, from my regular visits to schools across the constituency, that staff, Governors and parents create an excellent environment for the next generation of children to succeed at school. For parents the challenge is not finding a good local school, but getting a place in it. Year after year parents come to my surgeries, distraught that they have not got a place at a local primary school for their child, even when they might have had a nursery place and their son or daughter was already happy in school.
I, and my Liberal Democrat council colleagues in Didsbury have been arguing for years of the need for a new primary school in Didsbury – we even argued that a land swap arrangement should be made with Manchester Metropolitan University when plans were unveiled for the University to move to the All Saints site. Unfortunately this fell on deaf ears, and the Labour Council failed to plan for a new school, despite receiving £12.5million extra this year alone from the Coalition Government to help ease the school place shortage, on top of millions of extra pupil premium money.
But the local community has not sat back. Didsbury C of E Primary is an exceptional school and incredibly popular – it received 180 applications for 30 places last year. Under the able leadership of head Nick Whitehead and Rev Bundock, and with the support of St James and Emmanuel church and the Diocese of Manchester, they have submitted a free school application to set up a free school and provide much-needed additional places for local children, that will be open to those of all faiths and none.
It has the support of the vast majority of local people, including many who are sceptical about free schools in general, but recognise that a Didsbury C of E free school would be great for Didsbury.
It is a real shame that the Labour Council has chosen to oppose the application, but at least it has forced their hand and only now are they looking seriously at alternative proposals for extra school places in Didsbury. Personally I do not think that ideology should get in the way of what is best for our local kids.
The merits of this free school application speak for themselves. There is an identified need, the local community has responded to that need, and there is widespread popular support for the application. I support it and hope it will be successful.
To read more about the bid, check out http://www.didsburyfreeschool.org/