When Ofsted so openly criticised schools in Swindon’s last November, it would be fair to say it left a mark on teachers, pupils, parents, support staff, and many here at the council.

Our schools were accused of failing children “at every level” and, as I said at the time, the damning assessment undermined much of the excellent work that goes on in our schools.

One of the points raised by Ofsted concerned the performance of our pupils at age 11 - the end of Key Stage 2 - with 44 per cent of them reaching the new expected standard in reading, writing and maths. The figure quoted actually rose by two per cent after being validated, but clearly it was not where we wanted it to be.

We attributed the lower results to the introduction of a new writing assessment with Swindon schools interpreting government guidance very strictly, compared to other authorities and we highlighted this to Ofsted.

A lot of work went on within schools to push our results back up with primary schools sharing best practice and education advisors and governor support staff all playing their part. Teachers too adjusted to the new system.

I was therefore delighted to learn that Swindon’s primary schools are among the most improved in the country after the Department for Education published its 2017 provisional data for Key Stage 2.

In writing we have moved up 82 places in the provisional league tables for all authorities, while our improvement in reading, writing and maths has seen Swindon’s schools move up 78 positions.

Overall, 61 per cent of pupils at the end of Key Stage 2 reached the expected level in reading, writing and maths – in line with the national average which is a remarkable turnaround.

The results are of course subject to validation, but I would like to personally thank everyone involved in our primary schools who have helped to bring about this obvious improvement.

There will be no resting on our laurels though as there is still much to be done. The Swindon Challenge Board, which has been set up with £600,000 in Council funding over three years, will help schools to access a range of expertise and training designed to help raise attainment even further.

Talking of money, that brings me on to our car parking machines. As many of you will be aware, from October 15 the old pound coin will cease to be legal tender. In order to allow us to bank any of the old coins ahead of this date, the Council’s parking machines will stop taking the old coins from October 1.

We have placed signs on all our machines, but if you do get caught out after this date, don’t forget you can still use the PayByPhone service. Further details can be found at: www.swindon.gov.uk/paybyphone