South Bristol Schools Crisis
Offers for primary school places have been made for September 2014 and we are delighted that the local schools were able to accommodate all children living in the area. Many families got their first choice. Thank you to the Council and schools for their hard work.
The area now has sufficient reception places for all the children in the area. There has been strong support from the Council, with the acquisition of land for Ashton Gate and Southville to expand, and from the local schools which have expanded or taken on "bulge" classes when needed. There are also plans to create a new school on the caravan site near Spike Island, which should increase choice for BS3 families and help with the lack of places in the Hotwells and Clifton Wood areas.
We continue to monitor these developments and keep the community informed.
South Bristol Schools Campaign is a community-led group initially formed when there was a lack of local school places in BS3. It seems that long term solutions are now in place, so our role will now be limited to liaising with schools and the Council to ensure the delivery of promised new places and new sites, and to share information with the local community.For the latest information, join the mailing list - this will allow the campaign group to quickly and easily inform and keep track of all those concerned.You can also email the campaign group: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
‘Creative thinkers for life’
Ashton Gate Rd♦Ashton Gate♦Bristol BS3 1SZ Headteacher: Mrs S Willson Tel: 0117 9030236♦Fax: 0117 9030237
14th December, 2011
Dear parents and carers,
At last night’s meeting of its Full Governing Body, Ashton Gate’s governors voted to expand our 2012 Reception intake from 2 to 3 forms of entry, enabled by the creation of a Nursery and Reception annex on the St. Francis Church site, on the following basis:
1. An architectural design that meets the requirements of school leadership in terms of safety, access, and flow for children to and from outdoor play areas, taking into account ground levels; and the same for access to the site by parents that minimizes bottlenecks during pick-up and drop-off.
2. The Local Authority to arrange for the supply of hot lunch meals to those children based at the annex site from September 2012.
3. Measures will be put in place to improve the safety of the entire route between the main site and annex, including a suitable formal road crossing that enables large groups of children, families, and staff to cross North Street conveniently and safely.
In addition to meeting the school’s specific design requirements, obviously the Local Authority’s plans for the church site have to go through the usual planning approvals process, as will road safety improvements. We will update you as we receive information in this regard.
School management and governors believe that the Early Years annex approach is, on balance, a real gain for the school: it will create more space on the main site, and would bring Reception and Nursery together as a single operating unit, something we have long wanted to do. And of course, there is the benefit to the community, where 30 more families will now have access to a local school.
It’s worth noting, however, that even though Ashton Gate and Compass Point have agreed to take additional Reception classes in 2012, the forecast was for 98 local children to be unable to find a place at a school within the Greater Bedminster area; between us, we have been able to create space for 60 – about two thirds -- of those. The problem of supplying enough primary school places has not yet been resolved.
Over the coming months, staff will be working on detailed plans for the move to and operation of the annex site. We will provide you more detailed information about how things will work in due course. As for the possibility of further expansion via a new school in our area, we await specific proposals from the Local Authority based on land acquisitions, which are still being explored or negotiated. Again, we will be in touch with you on this front when we know more. Nothing has yet been decided.
Governors would like to again extend their thanks to parents for contributing a wide range of detailed views to this process. We now turn to the expertise and experience of our staff to plan and successfully run the expanded school. We welcome the support of both current and future parents to help make this happen.
Even as we are in a period of growth and change, Governors and staff are confident that we can continue to build on and enhance the qualities that have made Ashton Gate successful in providing a high standard of education – in its broadest sense – for your children.
I wish you an enjoyable holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
Tuesday, 6 December 2011
The school will consider continuous two form entry from 2013 in line with a full consultation on proper facilities for the school and Children’s Centre services. Governors at the school believe they can accommodate two further classes but proper consideration of good building solutions is needed first.
To see the letter in full please follow this link to the South Street School website:
Thursday, 1 December 2011
Dear Parents and Carers,
Thanks to all who contributed to the recent consultation on the possible expansion of Ashton Gate. The information many of
you provided by email, in person, through the open meeting, and the questionnaire has helped governors understand the wide
range of parent views. The consultation has now finished, and I’d like to bring you up to date on where we are now.
At a special meeting of the finance and buildings committee on 29th November, governors discussed the school community’s
views and the options available to us. Taking into account your input, as well as continuing discussions with the Local
Authority, architects, and school staff, we are exploring the option of putting Nursery and Reception on the St. Francis Church
site. This would enable 3-form Reception entry in 2012 and 2013. If implemented, this plan should bring significant benefits to
both the Early Years unit and the wider school.
Details remain to be ironed out to ensure this plan is feasible. A final decision will be made at the next meeting of the Full
Governing Body on 13th December, in time to inform the LA before their public announcement on 15th. In the meantime, we
will contact you again as things develop.
The minutes of the recent meeting and a summary of the results of the online questionnaire will be available on the school Web
site shortly. Thank you again for contributing to the discussions about expansion.
Chair of Governors
Sunday, 27 November 2011
Some of the questions and responses are summarised below:
Q: What happens if there is no permanent solution?
A: It will mean reducing the intake in future years. The council is confident that there is the funding for a permanent solution.
Q: How have numbers been increasing at the school since the bulge class and what are projected increases?
A: We don't have numbers to hand but the expansion will create a spare classroom on the current site. Most local schools are full.
Q: How will the expansion impact on the culture of the school?
A: The community ethos of the school is very important. We will be asking the children in the school for their views on how to maintain the ethos of the school.
Q: How will you minimise disruption by the planned short term changes?
A: We will ensure that disruption is minimal. We need to think broadly in order to benefit the community as a whole.
Q: What will the decision be based on? Why is there such a short amount of time to make the decision?
A: The decision we are about to take is for the short term only . We don't yet know about the long term. To make a decision we need to ensure that the inconvenience caused by expansion is tolerable and manageable. We are avoiding the rushed decision that happened last year and have been talking about these options for a long time. Parents should be able to make an educated view about whether they can secure a place at a local school. Based on rising numbers a new school needs to be in place by 2014.
Q: How will the outdoor space by affected by expansion?
A: There is more space per child on the St Francis Site than on the current site. The school crossing has to be suitable or the planning application will be turned down.
Q: Will the needs of the wider and community be taken into account?
A: We will balance the community need against the disruption and inconvenience.
Q: Why were only 7 places taken up at South Street Primary School when there is a deficit in the area?
A: There is a shortfall of 98 places in the greater Bedminster area. There is a growing number of parents interested in South Street.
Q: Where and how will children eat under the expansion?
A: We will discuss this with the organisation who organise the school meals. We believe that hot meals should be taken to children on the St Francis site.
Q: What guidance can you give to new parents on how to apply for places?
A: Parents will be told where there will be spare capacity before the deadline for making applications, so will be able to make an informed choice. We suggest putting your three closest schools down.
Q: Is the online survey available to current and future parents?
A: It is available to anyone who is concerned/ interested in the expansion plans.
Q: Would it be possible to end up in a situation where parents are offered places, but then the planning application is turned down?
A: Before offers of places are made we will know if the planning application has been successful. Parents will know by mid December which schools are able to take additional children. The council will work closely with the planners and hope to have permission agreed by April. The planning process should only take 6 weeks. If it is unsuccessful we will need to find an urgent solution.
Q: What other plans are in place for meeting the deficit of places?
A: The council is working with other schools to add capacity. The council is currently bidding for a site but negotiations are dragging. We have to look at expansion in blocks of 30.
Q: What finances are there to make improvements to the current school?
A: There will be no substantial investment in the current buildings.
Q: What financing is required for the long term solution?
A: £10,000 is required for each place for each child so £6-7 million has been set aside for a new school. PFI funding is possible. The council will know in December if we are to get 3 year capital funding. There is more than the 18 million available to Bristol due to previous and current funding.
Friday, 25 November 2011
"Ashton Gate Primary School governors would like to hear your views on the possible expansion of the school to accommodate an additional Reception class from September 2012. We’d like your input based on the information provided to you by the school and the Local Authority, and discussions at the open meeting on 24th November. Governors will decide, by the end of November, whether to expand temporarily onto the land next to the church. Any plans for further, permanent, expansion will be based on detailed proposals from the LA in the coming months and further consultation with parents. "
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Thursday, 24 November 2011
Notes from meeting with Craig Bolt (Service Director: Education Strategy and Targeted Support) 22nd November 2011
- There are three other government funding announcements pending which will influence the provision of extra primary places.
- A set of announcements about these will be made sometime in December meaning that the 15th December deadline for an announcement re extra school places will, in some cases, be dependant on the timing of these other announcements.
- The council would like to provide 3 extra intake forms in 2012 for the Greater Bedminster area to meet the expected rise in number .
- This is data based upon retrieved Birth data, GP registrations and DFE’s yearly revisions.
- Beyond 2012 the figures look likely to increase slightly until 2015 where there is expected to be a significant increase.
- With regards to combating a likely issue with Secondary schools in the near future. The council consider that there is a 2 year window before this needs to be tackled. Though they are considering the issue.
- Secondary schools face slightly less of an issue as they are not inhibited by infant class size legislation.
- The council have looked at 25 sites for consideration of an Annex or new school.
- The council held a meeting with all the local schools and sent a letter to follow up.
- Certain sites have been looked into and rejected for various reasons. Faith Space (Opposite Southville Primary ) is one which has been considered.
- It will not be possible to expand Parson’s Street Primary but the council have not rejected the idea of working with the school in relation to annex provision.
- 2 sites have been purchased pending contracts (these sites would count as one annex)
- A number of sites are under offer.
- There is no possibility of extending the 15th January deadline for school applications.
- The council aims to be clear about where extra school places will on the 15th December. They will publish this on their website and SBSC will publish on the blog.
- Craig Bolt said that the council can not advise parents on how to order preferences on the application.
- The council are aware of the forthcoming meeting on 24th Nov at Ashton Gate and Mick Branaghan will be there to represent them.
- The council are in positive discussions with Ashton Gate and are working with them to finalise part of a solution for 2012.
- Another local school has agreed, in principal to including an extra form intake.
- SBSC will follow up on suggestions that the council talk to Southville Primary about what, if anything, they could do to help as they would service one of the areas “Black Holes”.
The council are confident that 2 additional reception classes will be found for 2012 and are hopeful that another form will be found. Though there is still a risk that some children will be offered places outside of our local area if not.
Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Thursday, 17 November 2011
Following up on my letter to you of 10th November, there will be an open meeting on Thursday 24th November, 7pm-8:30pm in the Junior hall at school. The purpose of this event is to give current and future parents an opportunity to ask questions and share their views about the possible expansion of the school to take an additional Reception class in September 2012, and the longer term implications, as outlined in my letter last week (if you haven’t kept a copy, it’s on the school Web site in the Governors section).
Governors need to decide, by the end of November, whether to accept an additional Reception class next year. While we have not received any new information from the Local Authority (LA) since I last wrote, I can outline the proposal for September 2012. Subject to the completion of the church land purchase, additional school space would be created next to St. Francis Church. It would comprise high quality modular accommodation (classrooms, support rooms, toilets, etc.) within a self-contained, secure site, including outdoor play space. The plan would be to move two Year 6 classes there in September 2012, freeing up space on the main site for three incoming Reception classes. This arrangement is likely to last for two years, while a permanent facility is built. So both Year 5 and Year 6 would be housed on that site in 2013-14, creating space for a further three incoming Reception classes in 2013. This temporary arrangement could then be “reversed” once permanent buildings are available nearby.
Ashton Gate Primary School ‘Creative thinkers for life’ Ashton Gate Rd, Ashton Gate, Bristol, BS3 1SZ
Headteacher: Mrs S Willson Tel: 0117 9030236 Fax: 0117 9030237 e-mail: email@example.com
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
‘Creative thinkers for life’
Ashton Gate Rd♦Ashton Gate♦Bristol BS3 1SZ Headteacher: Mrs S Willson Tel: 0117 9030236♦Fax: 0117 9030237
11th November 2011
Dear parents and carers,
I last wrote to you in July 2011 about Ashton Gate’s response to the Primary schools places crisis in south Bristol, including our taking the “bulge” class. Since then, the expanded Reception has been working out really well. But our attention is now focused on what will happen in 2012 and beyond. Although there is still uncertainty about how the Local Authority (LA) will provide the Reception places needed, I will tell you what I do know about the process and the most likely outcomes that could involve Ashton Gate.
As you know, Governors decided that we cannot accommodate an additional Reception class on our current site in 2012. We also informed the LA that we are receptive to the idea of expansion to 3-form entry (FE); obviously that would be subject to the location of suitable nearby land, and consultation with current and future parents about what an expansion would mean and how it would work.
For the last few months, the LA has been working throughout the city to identify and acquire property on which to build new school facilities. In our area, several options have been looked at; but while some financial and contractual negotiations are on-going, so far no property has actually been bought.
You may have heard on the grapevine about the possibility of the school expanding onto part of the St. Francis church site. This is an option that we have been actively exploring with the LA and the diocese since June 2011. It looks likely that the LA will now purchase two plots of land: the one behind the hall that was put up for public sale, plus the bulk of the vicarage garden next to it. “Proof of concept” plans showed that a suitable Early Years/Key Stage 1 facility could be built on that site; this required conversion of the church hall to joint community and classroom space (classrooms above, the church having exclusive use of the hall below). I recently learned that agreement has not been reached on use of the hall, and so this scenario may no longer be viable: it would not be possible to expand onto this site unless further adjacent land were acquired to make up for the loss of the hall space. (Obviously, the church land that is acquired could be used for temporary facilities while a longer term solution is developed.)
So, what of the long term? Because of the significant demand for places in our area in 2012 and the following years, one or more new school facilities will almost inevitably be built somewhere nearby, even though we don’t know where yet. There is simply no other way for the LA to provide sufficient Primary places. Such new provision would be in addition to the capacity provided by Ashton Gate (whether or not we were willing and able to expand onto the church site). By default, a new school would be an academy (which involves a longer and more contentious process to set up); alternatively, it could be brought under the umbrella of an existing school (as in the case of the Brunel Field “annexe” at Ashley Down Primary school).
If a site for a newly-built school were acquired in our area, the LA would almost certainly ask Ashton Gate to consider taking on the running of that facility. Why might we agree to that? Governors believe that the ethos of our school includes a strong commitment to the wider community, not just to the school “as is”: we aim to provide high quality Primary education to our local community, which includes future families and children as well as those already in the school. Many families in our area risk not being able to benefit from that.
If a new school site were acquired, we would have the opportunity to be directly involved in providing desperately needed extra capacity to our community under the “umbrella” of Ashton Gate: a combination of the school as-it-is plus brand new premises nearby. This could offer many benefits, such as resource and facilities-sharing across the sites. And governors believe we have the management and leadership capacity, expertise and experience to effectively run an expanded school under this arrangement. If we decided not to take on the new school, it would run independently of us, probably as an academy or part of a schools trust, and would therefore “compete” with Ashton Gate for pupils.
In thinking about this option, for governors and community alike, location will be key. Would its position actually deal with the crisis in our area? Is the distance between the sites workable? How would the admissions arrangements operate (e.g., catchment area)? Should a new school simply “mirror” Ashton Gate, or would it be better configured as “junior” and “infants”? Could we retain our “part-of-the-community feel” under the new arrangements?
But, at the moment, this is just a hypothetical scenario: no location has been confirmed as the site of a new school facility, and so we can’t share with you a formal proposal, let alone make a decision. We won’t be able to do that until the LA has completed land purchases, evaluated and costed the building works, assessed planning implications, etc. These things are happening as I write to you. Since the Council’s Cabinet will approve specific proposals and announce 2012 Reception provision on 15th December, options must be firmed up within the next couple of weeks, and schools must agree to any 2012 expansion by the end of November. Time, again, is tight.
We do not want to be rushed into a decision and find ourselves in a temporary arrangement with an unclear future. So governors have decided that we will not agree to an additional Reception class in 2012 unless acceptable long term solutions have been identified, and that we have had the chance to share these with our current and future parent community before making a decision.
I do not know when specific long term plans will be forthcoming from the LA, but I am in close contact with the relevant officers and elected members on a continuous basis. If proposals materialize within the next two weeks, we will let you know what they are, invite your feedback, and hold an open meeting for Q&A before governors decide on short and long term expansion (by the end of November). In the meantime, do please contact me if you have any questions or comments.
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
Tel: 0117 922 7838
Saturday, 5 November 2011
On 22nd November representatives from the South Bristol Schools Campaign will meet with Craig Bolt at Bristol City Council to discuss what the next steps will be. Please email us with any additional questions to those outlined below by 15th November.
>What is the current projected lack of provision in September 2012 in Bristol and more importantly in BS3?
>How reliable is the data that you're basing the funding distribution on?
>What percentage of the funding is for primary provision in the city and BS3? Is this funding just for capital expenditure, i.e. buildings and infrastructure?
>What budget does the Council have in place without any of this £500m Government funding? What primary school provision will this provide in BS3?
>Now that the Government funding distribution has been announced; how long will it take to decide where the funding will be deployed?
>What distance does the Council consider acceptable for primary school children to travel to school?
>Is the BS3 area the council's number one priority for providing funding and thus new provision in 2012?
>How long does it take to build a new school or add an annex to an existing school?
>What happens beyond 2012, are there plans to keep adding temporary infrastructure or solutions, or will there be a new school building the area? If a new school, what number form entry?
>If a new school was built, would admissions criteria be altered for the school to ensure it captured children in the 'black holes'? For example would it have a geographically eccentric catchment, or a geographically displaced catchment?
>What plans are in place to support the evidential rise in secondary school places in the forthcoming years?
>What schools are involved in finding a solution? Why have some schools not yet been approached?
>Who instigates the process of exploring school expansion, the school or LA?
>Is there anything we can do to help in terms of bringing schools (who are not on board) on board with trying to resolve the issue.
> What is your strategy for finding potential annexing opportunities?
> What is the plan long term? Have efforts been equally split between short term and long term solutions?
>What advice can the council give to parents regarding choosing their three schools for the application? Do we simply put the schools down we'd like our children to go to that are local, or do we need to be more strategic and factor in which schools might be oversubscribed?
>It's great news that extra funding has been secured and some of the pressure will be off for this year. Will any of this money be put aside for NEXT year's intake (2013)?
Tuesday, 27 September 2011
Thursday, 15 September 2011
Wednesday 14 September 8pm Bedminster Methodist Church.
Ian Bell: Bristol City Council Pupil Place Planning Manager
Clare Campion-Smith: Cabinet Member for Children and Young People (LD)
Colin Smith: Labour Councillor Bedminster
Mark Bradshaw: Labour Councillor Bedminster
Kevin Jones:Head of Luckwell Primary School
Jackie Smith: Parson Street Primary School Chair of Govenors
Local parent, Neil Adams chaired the meeting, attended by approximately 70 people, and provided the following contextual information prior to the open forum:
The purpose of the meeting is to raise awareness of the schools shortage in the area and update parents on the current situation. Through the meeting we hope to co-ordinate community action and make sure our voice is heard. The meeting will help give a sense of numbers of children affected, however, we can not expect a solution at this stage.
The current admissions policy for schools is a statutory limit of 30 per class. Places are given to pupils in priority order starting with those in care, then siblings and then geographical distance from the school.
The background: In 2010 there were sufficient places for primary school children in BS3. In 2011 approximately 30 children were allocated a school that was more than one km away, exposing ‘black holes’ in the area. We need to help with the council’s planning process to ensure there are sufficient places for local children in the future.
Our expectations for primary schools: Children should be placed in schools that are less than 1km away and it’s important that school sizes are sustainable. We need to work together as a community to ensure these expectations are met.
Funding: We expect a decision from central government regarding funding for primary schools in the autumn.
Foreseen problems: In addition to potential insufficient funding for the area, the building of new schools and extending schools is constrained by the type of buildings and plot sizes in BS3. There is also a concern that the decision making process will be complicated by multiple decision makers, for instance the schools and the council.
Actions from the meeting: At the end of the meeting we would like to take details of concerned parents to help gauge numbers affected by the primary shortage. If parents are interested in getting involved please follow the blog, and help to put pressure on local MPs the DfE and the Local Authority by signing the e-petition.
As problem last year wasn’t predicted. How far ahead are the council looking?
At the moment they are looking to 2015.
From that data, how will we cope?
Additional sites are being looked at as an option as generally the current sites don’t lend themselves to expansion.
If we do get funding what will happen?
It is possible to build a school by September. The council are looking at modular solutions such as a pre-built school and also working with existing schools but not necessarily on site.
South Street is undersubscribed and used to be larger. Why is that not expanding?
Compass Point was larger but other businesses have taken up space there, such as the children’s centre, which they would not want to lose. Compass point does potentially have more space but would be unlikely to have space for the 7 extra classes required for a long term extra class intake.
Will we have true visibility as to which schools will have extra spaces?
The council are planning a series of meetings with the schools to go through data. Once the council and the schools agree, they can make a decision. By 15th Dec there should be agreements in place.
How did we get to this position? And how can we have confidence in a resolution?
The School Organisation Strategy outlines plans for dealing with the shortage. 600 new places have been created in Bristol last year. This is an ongoing problem and a solution in this particular area is not simple as currently the council have not got the sites.
With the collected data, how come this was not prevented.?
In other areas, the distance people were being asked to travel would have been acceptable. In the south of the city there were enough places. It is recognised that Bristol is unique in its geography and all areas are being looked at individually.
Last year the roads were split so that on the same road some children were offered one school and others somewhere different. How does that keep the community together?
The council commented that they try to place children where the parents want but when that is not an option, they will try to at least place children in their area. The council aim to put children from nearby streets in the same school and distance is used as a tie-break. The ultimate aim is to keep children in their area and not send them out of the area.
Bulge classes are not the solution. Ashton gate is bursting and South Street has a little space. How can we deal with this?
It is not just a question of money. The council are looking to find something sustainable. Some of the smaller sites in the area are not sustainable. The council are looking at a number of sites in the area and would hope to be able to acquire something in a short timescale. They welcome suggestions of sites.
The Schools Strategy did not predict the South Bristol Issue. How reliable is the data?
These things are never precise. It was predicted that 31 children could not be given places last year and it is, overall, quite accurate.
What does the Schools strategy predict for 2012?
There will be a deficit of 90 places.
Claire Campion Smith understood that she and Ian might be sounding elusive or ‘cagey’. One reason being that any decision must go through the school’s governing body. Another reason being that if they are trying to acquire a site, they have to keep it quiet. She said that they are working hard to find a solution and that the figures vary from year to year. She agreed that they are not providing enough schools but said that the schools listed in the Schools strategy are all the schools who have put themselves forward for expansion in the short, medium and long term.
15th December was given as a date that the council will have a decision about what a solution might look like.
15th January will be the deadline for applications for reception places for 2012.
Claire Campion Smith said that they will try to update the Bristol City Council website and improve communication so that parents can stay up to date with developments.
Some places are being given to siblings who no longer live in the area. This does not seem fair.
The council say they have investigated the sibling rule in these case and there are usually only 1 or 2 places involved. If they were to try to change it, it would only shift the problem around to other areas of the city.
How dependent are we on a part of the £500 million capital funding? Is there a plan B?
The council have got some provisions but not getting the funding would mean having to invest over a longer period. They are not totally dependent.
Is a free school the way to go?
Applications for free schools have to be submitted by this October.
Is a rebuild for Ashton Gate a possibility?
Claire Campion Smith, when asked about a rebuild for Ashton Gate, said that it was quite ambitious. She does have an aspiration for local children to go to local schools and by local she means within a mile of the school. There has been an increase of 20% children requiring primary places in the past 4 years. She says that they are taking the issue seriously. All the new places being created should be known before Christmas (15th December). She said that the schools in this area have been responsive and helpful. When asked how optimistic she was she replied that Michael Gove is aware of the situation in Bristol so the chances of us getting some of the £50 million of the Governments capital funding are high.
Details of why and how the September 2011 intake was increased to a 3 form entry and position for 2012.
- As has been discussed, a large number of children in BS3 were not allocated a local school when notified in May 2011.
- While 60 children were admitted to Ashton Gate’s two Reception classes for September 2011, 48 applicants were unsuccessful, and families were allocated places at more distant schools outside their local area (the effective catchment area had a radius of less than 400m from the school).
- The Council contacted the Head teacher (Sue Wilson) and the Chair of Governors (Lloyd Fletcher) the week beginning 9th May 2011 to discuss the potential for a bulge class in 2011.
- A full Governing Body meeting was held on 24th May 2011. Michael Branaghan and Ian Bell attended to represent the council and discuss the need for a ‘bulge’ class and what provisions would be in place.
- There was no time to undertake a consultation with current parents as the council needed to make admission decisions in early June.
- The Governing Body challenged the Council’s approach, questioned the short, medium and long term strategy and how Ashton Gate fitted into that strategy.
- The Governing Body needed to ensure that the decision would not have an unmitigated negative impact on the new prospective pupils and the current pupils.
- The Governing Body needed to ensure that the finances were in place to support this additional class in September 2011 and throughout their time within the school.
- The Council provided assurances that the small capital expenditure needed to support the increased pupil numbers would be provided.
- The Council also confirmed that the first year funding would be provided in full for the additional class teacher. Beyond this, the finances would be based on the funding formula calculator in operation at that time.
- The Council could not commit to the medium term, i.e. 2012/2013 and long term strategy due to a lack of funding visibility, however conceded it was a problem as noted in the Schools Organisational Strategy Document.
- Following appropriate consideration and in the time allowed, the Full Governing Body voted to support the addition of a further form entry (30 pupils) for a single year in 2011.
- The school responded promptly and recruited staff and commenced the work to start physical works to the school as quickly as was feasible.
- The additional class has now commenced at the school and the feedback from staff, pupils and parents is principally positive.
- A bulge class in September 2012 cannot be accommodated on the current Ashton Gate site.
- This is due to the lack of external space that the additional pupils would generate. It is also due to a lack of internal infrastructure to support an additional class. The school and Council are working together to discuss options, however this is constrained by finances.
- At present there will be 34 siblings attending Ashton Gate in Reception 2012, therefore 57% of the places will be taken by siblings.
Statement from Dawn Primarolo MP
I am very sorry that I am not able to join you this evening [BS3 Primary Schools Shortage Public Meeting 14th September - sbsc]. As Parliament is sitting this week, I have to be in London.
I can assure you, however, that I share your concerns about primary school places in the BS3 area. Every parent should be entitled to expect that their children will be able to go to a good local primary school within walking distance. Sending children to schools miles away from their homes undermines our communities, and destroys the links that I know many parents and children make through pre-school activities.
The Council’s disastrous allocation of primary school places this spring left many parents very angry and upset. I assisted a number of parents at the time and, working with parents and local councillors, put pressure on the Council to make extra provision available in BS3 this September. The Governors of Compass Point and Ashton Gate Primary School led the way, and bulge classes have begun there.
This additional provision should be welcomed, but it does not provide a permanent solution to this difficult problem. The Council’s short, medium and long term planning needs to rapidly improve so that parents can be confident that the Council will be able to offer their children a local school place. Additionally, it is important to recognise that the Government needs to provide substantial capital funding to address the shortage of space.
Along with local councillors, I have recently begun delivering a letter to parents asking them to support our campaign to bring the situation in BS3 to the attention of Education Secretary Michael Gove. I would urge everyone to take five minutes to support the campaign so that we can pass your views directly on to Government Minsters.
I hope this evening’s meeting is productive. If I can be of assistance, or if you have any questions about this, or any other matter, please do get in touch.
Labour MP for Bristol South
PO Box 1002
Thursday, 1 September 2011
Are your children approaching school age? Would you like them to go to a local school, within walking distance of their home? Join with local parents to discuss how we can come together to ensure that enough school places are provided for children in BS3 in September 2012, 2013 and beyond.
The story so far
In April 2011, many families in BS3 were notified that their children had not been allocated a reception place at either one of their three preferred schools, nor at a local alternative. Some were given places over two miles from home. Following swift action from parents, a one-off solution was found with bulge classes created at Ashton Gate Primary and South Street.
What happens next?
A permanent solution still needs to be found. BS3 has a large population of preschool-age children, which will need local school places in September 2012 and beyond. Local authorities are aware of this, but parents need to work with them to ensure there is a place for every child in the future.
What can I do?
Come to the public meeting on Wednesday 14th September at 8.00pm. Led by local parents, its aims are to provide information about the current situation, estimate the number of children who require schools places for 2012, and raise support for the campaign for school places in South Bristol.
Wednesday 14th September, 8pm.
Bedminster Methodist Church. British Road, BS3 3BW.
Monday, 29 August 2011
The wording of the petition is as follows:
To the Secretary of State for Education
We, the undersigned, are parents of children who are 4 years old and under or expectant parents who live in Bristol. The last four years has seen an unprecedented rise (20%) in the number of children entering school in reception class. By 2014, there will be an extra 3,000 children in Bristol primary schools and, if planned housing is developed, this will increase to an extra 5,000.
This is good for the future of the city but there are serious challenges to creating the extra school places we need. We, therefore, call on the government urgently to make the necessary funding available - capital and revenue - and support the vital work we are doing by designating a civil servant to work with us at the highest possible level.
Sign the petition:
and please encourage as many other parents as possible to do the same.
Dear parents and carers,
I’d like to update you on the Bulge class and governors’ longer term views of the primary school places crisis in our area.
Bigger and Better Reception
It’s been heartening to see that parents overwhelmingly support the decision, whilst recognizing the challenges involved. The school is now busy preparing to welcome our three Reception classes in September (from now on we will no longer refer to a “bulge” class!). A large part of this effort involves some modifications to the Infant building, which are scheduled to take place over the summer.
As part of preparing for our larger intake, we are spending about £10,000 on new resources and equipment for all three Reception classes. It has been some years since we were able to invest significant money in Reception, but happily we are now in a financial position to do that. The proportion of these expenses that relate directly to our taking on the extra class will, of course, be funded directly by the Local Authority, as will all the building works.
Expansion and improvement to Old Chapel Park block
As I’ve reported previously, we also need to replace the room space lost by moving a Year 5 class to Old Chapel Park: the temporary block will be extended to provide the meeting and small group space we need.
A side benefit of this will be the provision of more toilets, including a disabled and staff toilet, neither of which we have in Old Chapel Park currently. Given the lead time for specifying and ordering the appropriate temporary unit and the need to go through planning permission, the extension may not be completed until the October break. But we will be able to make do until then.
Making it easier and safer to move around the site
We will also be undertaking work to ease the pressure on foot and buggy traffic through the playground entrances. A ramp will be installed to provide direct access between the Junior and Infant playgrounds. Unfortunately, this will require removing the birch tree that stands by that gate; but we will replace it with a new tree in Old Chapel Park.
With more foot traffic approaching the school, we are hopeful that the improvements to Ashton Gate Road (which some of you may have previewed at the recent Street Party) will help with traffic calming. The current estimate is that this work will take place within the next few months, subject to the Council’s final approvals and scheduling.
But what about the future?
Thinking about the longer term, South Bristol, along with other areas of the city, still faces the problem that there are not enough primary school places for the children forecasted to need them over the next few years and beyond: supply does not meet demand. Our view is that Ashton Gate cannot accommodate a second Reception “bulge” in 2012 unless the physical capacity of our premises is increased. Not only would an additional classroom be required, but pressure on facilities over all would need to be minimized; in particular, the amount of outdoor play space per pupil must not be reduced from what it is now (ideally, we want to increase it!). It is hard to see how this could happen without expanding the school’s site somehow into nearby premises.
Despite the scarcity of free land in our area, there is, in fact, the potential to utilize some nearby property, either in a temporary arrangement or as part of a longer term expansion. Some creative thinking for how this might work is under way, and we are in conversation with Local Authority officers and appropriate experts to explore the options. Obviously we will consult with parents and the wider community when we have something more detailed and specific to discuss.
The political situation
It may be that the Local Authority will decide that expanding Ashton Gate (for the short or long term) is not feasible or affordable, or that another local school is better placed to provide the extra capacity needed, or that an entirely new school should be built in our area (which, by default, must be an academy).
But currently the Authority is unable to make any decisions on major school building or expansion projects beyond this year: the reason is that central government (the Department for Education, or DfE) has not stated what funds will be made available for 2012 and beyond (it was due to decide these last December). In addition, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, intends to centralize the planning of school capital building projects; this would take some decision-making and control away from local authorities. So there remains much uncertainty about how the needed capacity expansion in Bristol will be financed and managed, meaning the Local Authority is simply unable to make any long term commitments at this time.
The risk here, of course, is that in 2012 the city will find itself in exactly the same position as in 2011, i.e. a “capacity crisis”, because it was unable to plan ahead and provision for the additional places. For Ashton Gate, we have been clear with the Local Authority that we cannot take another bulge class unless there is sufficient expansion of our facilities. We are also taking the lead in exploring longer term options that would be right for the school and the community. But the Authority’s ability to respond to that is in large part limited by the lack of clarity on funding from the DfE. Therefore I would certainly encourage concerned parents throughout the city to contact their local MPs and the DfE, as well as maintaining pressure on the Local Authority, in the hope of establishing effective long term solutions for the city and our area of South Bristol. Time is running out to be ready for 2012. Planning for 2013 should be happening now.
Not wanting to end on a gloomy political note, let me wish you all an enjoyable summer. I know the staff are looking forward to welcoming back the children in September and settling in our new, larger Reception year. I will be in touch again in the autumn if and when there is something useful to report or
discuss. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me with questions, concerns or ideas. I’m more than happy to meet in person with parents, or converse by phone or email as is convenient for you.
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
Tel: 0117 922 7838
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
The South Bristol School Crisis has thankfully been resolved for 2011 but the shortage of primary places in the area needs a permanent solution.
Make your voice heard and get in touch:
post: BS3 Planning Group
or post your completed flyer questionnaire into the box at the Hen & Chicken on North St.
Saturday, 4 June 2011
Reception short fall
You may have heard that there has been a shortage of reception class places in our area this year, as a consequence we have been approached to open an additional class which will mean there will be two of this year group through the school. We feel this is an exciting opportunity to share our skills and expertise in our wider community and that it will enhance the provision we offer by giving us more staff, parents and pupils.
Many thanks to Compass Point's governors and staff for showing such community spirit and for the hard work they will have to put into making this happen.
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Monday, 30 May 2011
Again, we are so grateful to the school for their generosity, humanity and courage in making this difficult decision. The letters are reproduced in full below:
26 May 2011
“Bulge” Reception Class for September 2011
You will all have received the Chair of Governors parentmail yesterday about the extra class for Reception next year. I understand that you may have some concerns about the impact on space.
We are able to do this because we currently have a spare classroom in Old Chapel Park. This means that one Year 5 class will be in OCP next year. We have had three classes in OCP in the past. Year 5 next year is also a very small year group. Both Year 3 classes will be in the Junior Building. This means that there will be the same number of classes on the main site as this year.
As Lloyd Fletcher made clear in his letter, this was not a decision made lightly and there was a full and frank discussion with Local Authority officers. The Local Authority are also providing an extra small group place and toilets in OCP that will not impinge on play space, as well as adding doorways to enhance communication between Reception classes.
The children who were being sent to schools in Knowle and Hartcliffe live very close to our school, many in roads such as Hamilton, Leighton, Birch, Greville and Ashton Road, children who already attend our Nursery. These are local children and are part of our local community.
I look forward to your continuing support.
27th May 2011
Bulge Class Rumours!
It has come to our attention that a number of rumours are currently circulating regarding the location of the new Reception class. The new ‘bulge’ Reception class will be accommodated in the Infant building taking over one of the current Year 1 classrooms (with some modifications). Year 3 will move to the Junior building and a Year 5 class will move to Old Chapel Park. We wish to reassure you that the rumours circulating that children will be taught in the cow sheds, turrets or kitchens are not true!
Playtimes and lunch times will be staggered as necessary to ensure overcrowding is not an issue.
Staff at Ashton Gate would like to thank the parents who have taken the time to email and write expressing their support of the decision to open a new Reception class for the local children. Once again, we thank you for your continuing support.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Sunday, 22 May 2011
Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Meeting at Council Offices regarding
School Situation in
10 May 2011,
Present from BS3: Lottie Storey, Melanie Osborne, Alex Rogers
Present from Council: Craig Bolt, Clare Campion-Smith, Chris Brown
Lottie, Mel and Alex introduced themselves and explained they were parents of children directly affected by the shortage of primary school places for this September. Craig Bolt and Clare Campion-Smith explained their positions and responsibilities. Craig Bolt is Service Director – Education Strategy and Targeted Support. He has responsibility for the school admissions and for providing solutions to the shortage of school spaces in
(b) Council's view of problem.
Alex asked quite how severe the Council considered the current problem to be.
Craig explained the wider context of the problem in that across
Craig explained that, this year, in the Southville area, there are about 20 children directly affected by the shortage in reception places for September 2011, and a further 9 in the Greater Bedminster area (all these children having been allocated schools outside of BS3 and at none of their preferred schools). With this in mind, the Council explained that they do view the situation very seriously and did see it as an issue that ideally needs resolving by September 2011.
Craig then went through details for various schools, explaining some of the potential difficulties e.g. lack of space on their current site, preventing expansion. He clarified that any solution will require the cooperation and agreement of the school concerned.
Mel asked how long ago the Council had started planning for the boom in reception class places. Craig explained that a review had started in earnest in Summer 2010, with various consultations taking place, resulting in the above-named School Organisation Strategy being published in March this year.
(c) Report from Tobacco Factory meeting.
Lottie, Mel and Alex conveyed the views of parents expressed at the Tobacco Factory Meeting, which was attended by about 50 people. They explained the initial disbelief at receiving the offer letter: most people thought it a mistake as they hadn’t heard of the school allocated. They explained the resulting confusion, anger and frustration of the parents at realising that this was, in fact, the ‘correct’ allocation from the Council. They despaired at not being able to speak to anyone at the Council when they called, and were frustrated at just hearing recorded messages on voicemails.
Some of the practical difficulties for parents taking their children to school were explained, including, for instance, having to work reduced hours (if this is allowed by their line managers!) to complete the school run, co-ordinating shift work, and trying to arrange childcare for younger siblings, and, perhaps most importantly, the difficulty in trying to get a four-year-old to walk two miles or more twice a day. The detrimental effects on the children were also explained, such as feeling exhausted at school resulting in an inability to concentrate, and not having school friends in the local area. There was also concern at the lack of ‘wrap-around’ childcare at some of the schools allocated.
Mel and Lottie explained the divisive effect the situation might have on the local area and how it would undermine social cohesion. Alex also indicated that, even if parents could ferry their children to school by car or bus, this seemed to contradict the aim of the council to reduce cars on the road and decrease emissions.
Alex explained that the parents were generally pleased that the local councillors such as Sean Beynon, Mark Bradshaw, Tess Green and Colin Smith gave up their time on a Bank Holiday to come and listen to the parents and offered their support. Additionally, parents were pleased to have been contacted by Sean Beynon by letter in the days following the school allocation announcements.
(d) The group of parents affected.
We explained that the group of parents affected were very committed to the local area and all wished simply for their child to go to a local school. As a group we are willing to offer any help we possibly can to the process. However, feeling among the parents about the current schools situation was very strong: no-one viewed a lack of solution by September 2011 as an acceptable outcome.
(e) Council’s suggestions of feasible solutions.
Craig explained that talks were already underway, but that he could not disclose either with whom these talks were taking place, nor the nature of the solutions being considered. The reason for this was that the talks are sensitive and would not wish them to be undermined in any way by premature disclosure.
Craig clarified that the School Organisation strategy includes a £500K figure allocated to emergency provision for September 2011 - this has been approved by the Council's Cabinet and can be actioned fast (as long as a school agrees to extra provision). Craig confirmed he has responsibility for allocation of this fund.
In a discussion on the ‘preference’ system, Craig's clarified that
(f) Parents’ suggestions of practical solutions.
Lottie, Mel and Alex wished to convey some of the ideas that had occurred to parents in the area. This was just in case similar ideas had not occurred to the Council. These were:
Compass Point/South Street: This used to be a two-class intake school but is now a single-class intake school due to decreased numbers in past years. It is understood that there is currently a free classroom that could be used for a Reception class in September 2011. It is understood that some of the other classrooms that are being used for other facilities, which need not be in school environment – it was suggested that, long-term, the Council could look at turning Compass Point back into a two-intake school and possibly rehousing the other facilities, either on the school site or other suitable buildings within the area. An aerial view of the school was shown – it clearly has a lot of land, some of which could be considered for new buildings. Craig made a point that building on school fields can encounter objections, e.g. from Sport England.
- Southville Centre: This is an old school building on
Beauley Roadwhich is currently used as a community centre, and houses First Steps Nursery. It was suggested that the Council could look at whether space was available for a Reception Class for September 2011 although it is appreciated that this may only be a temporary measure. : There seems to be unused Council-owned land immediately next to the school which could be used to house a class attached to Luckwell Primary Luckwell School site: There is an undeveloped site opposite the entrance to Ashton Gate Stadium which could be looked at for future school provision Greville Smyth Park
- Disused/derelict building on Lydstep terrace, facing Dame Emily Park: this site could be looked at for future school provision.
The Council could not comment on the feasibility of any of these suggestions.
(g) Questions from other worried parents in
The Council was handed a list of questions from worried parents in the area. Craig Bolt indicated that he would email Lottie with answers to these questions in due course.
(h) Taking this forward.
Alex asked for two undertakings from the Council.
- To write to all parents affected in BS3 to reassure them that the Council was taking the problem very seriously and was trying to find a solution for September 2011.
- To attend a public meeting in the next month or so to give an update to parents.
Craig agreed to point 1, on the proviso that Alex/Lottie/Mel provided him with a list of people to whom letters should be sent directly. The Council were also happy for a general letter to be posted online, so parents in the area for whom Alex/Lottie/Mel did not have details could also read it. Craig also agreed to point 2, on the proviso that he would attend once a solution had been found.
(i) Any other business.
Monday, 16 May 2011
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
- They acknowledge that there is a problem in BS3
- They are taking it seriously
- They are already working towards a solution for September 2011 and a more permanent solution for 2012 and beyond
- Both Craig Bolt and Cllr Campion-Smith were very positive about this solution but could not offer at present any guarantees that it will be implemented, since it may require the agreement of other third parties
- If a place is found in BS3 to accommodate a class or half-class, it seems the current admissions criteria will apply, i.e. those who have not got any of their preferences will NOT be prioritised on any waiting lists.
Monday, 9 May 2011
Saturday, 7 May 2011