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Learning at a distance;FE Focus

THE first houses went up in Bradley Stoke near Bristol 11 years ago. Today it is a town in its own right, with a population of 18,000 and still rising, writes Martin Whittaker.

But its residents are living with the legacy of bad planning. A few years ago, negative equity earned it the nickname of Sadly Broke, but today Bradley Stoke is still struggling to keep pace with its burgeoning population.

"We were just dumped on 1,000 acres of green field and told to get on with it," said a town official.

"Bags of thought had gone into the lay-out of the place, but not enough for people's needs in building this community.

"Building started in 1987 and the first school opened in 1993. Having the school as a focal point is only a recent happening. There are no meeting rooms to speak of, making it difficult for clubs and organisations to form."

Most of the population were first-time buyers, and there are now 3,000 children under 10. But as they approach their teens, the town has no secondary school or FE college of its own.

"Within the town there's not a lot," said the official. "There's Filton College nearby, the University of the West of England in the next parish and there are a few outposts of places doing courses here.

"But there's no FE establishment and no scope for one in the grand plan. We would say that with a population of 25,000, which is what it will be when it's finished, we ought to have these things.

"But being stuck on the edge of Bristol a lot of people assume we'll draw on Bristol for that sort of thing, which arguably doesn't help community spirit. If you want to do anything you have to leave Bradley Stoke to do it."

In the past two years Swindon College has made inroads into Bradley Stoke with a community education programme delivering information technology-based courses, despite the fact that the college is almost 40 miles away.

Phil Neave, spokesman for Swindon College, said: "It just happened to be an area where we thought there was a community that probably needed this type of provision, which wasn't being provided by the local colleges in that area. And it has been highly successful."

FE Focus 35 TESJmarch 5 1999 Post-modern: Upper Rissington faces up to the challenge of shaping how its 700 or so new residents want to live - which includes education christopher jones But for the one-time Sadly Broke education took nine years to arrive

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