The first week of September marks the beginning of the new academic year, and for many pupils it will mean starting a new school. This is always a big moment, both for the students and their families. This week though, the 120, year seven pupils at the Turner Free School in Cheriton have the added distinction of being the first to attend a brand-new institution.
When the decision was made to close the former Pent Valley school, it was at a time when parents and students were choosing to go elsewhere and the number of new pupils enrolling to study was too low to make the school sustainable. At that time, the Department for Education promised that a new secondary school to replace Pent Valley would open in September 2018, and this has now been delivered. I would like to send my congratulations to the Chief Executive of Turner Schools, Jo Saxton, and the Principal of the new school, Kristina Yates, and her team, on all their hard work to make sure that they have been ready to open this week. It is also good to see that the level of local interest in the new school is such that it was oversubscribed for pupils seeking to start this term. The Turner Free School is one of 53 new free schools across the country that will open for the first time this week. The creation of these new schools is giving more choice to parents and opportunities for students. This week also sees the sixth form of the Folkestone Academy return to the same site as the rest of the school, and in a new building. Again, there has been a huge amount of work undertaken during the summer holidays to make this move possible, and I would to congratulate everyone at the Academy who has been involved in this project. The Glassworks building in Folkestone, which is owned by the Creative Foundation and had previously accommodated the Academy's sixth form students, will now be available for new creative and digital businesses looking to locate in the town. This additional space will help to further consolidate Folkestone’s reputation as a growing centre for this innovative and fast-growing business sector.
Last Friday I visited the Dungeness Nature Reserve, run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The site manager, Gareth Brookfield, was able to show me some of the recent conservation work to support the habitats and breeding sites for the many species of migratory birds that can be seen at Dungeness. The unique landscape of Dungeness, which is the largest shingle peninsular in Europe, also makes it home to many uncommon varieties of plants and insects. There has been considerable success as well at Dungeness with the re-introduction of rare species of bumblebee. As always, the reserve, which is the oldest in the country managed by the RSPB is well worth a visit. They have also taken over the 70-hectare site of the Lade Pits and Denge Sound mirrors to be managed as a nature reserve.