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: southbristolsc@gmail.com

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

New Facebook group for BS4 parents

We have been contacted by families from BS4 who have missed out on any of their three preferences, who have set up a Facebook group - join the group or email them for more information.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Ashton Gate headteacher allays concerns

Sue Willson, Ashton Gate headteacher, has issued two letters to parents concerned about the impact of a bulge class on the school. The letters reiterate the school's position - that our children are part of the community and should be allowed to go to school locally, alongside their friends and neighbours.

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

Dear Parents

“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.

Yours sincerely

Sue Willson
Headteacher


27th May 2011

Dear Parents/Carers

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.

Yours sincerely

Sue Willson
Headteacher

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Good news from Ashton Gate Primary School

Parents and carers of children at Ashton Gate Primary School were today given the news that their school will be accommodating an extra 'bulge' Reception class of 30 children for September 2011. The 'bulge' will be for one year only and will be carried through the school (i.e. in 2012 the bulge class will be Year 1, and so on).

This is very good news for all parents who have not been offered any of their preferences and have instead been given a school upwards of two miles away: we now stand a much better chance of getting our children into a local school within walking distance. It should be noted that the published admissions criteria will nevertheless apply - i.e. there will be no priority given for people offered schools outside of the area. It remains to be seen whether this will enable all those allocated schools outside the area to be offered a place at a local school. It is therefore vital that parents continue with the current admissions/appeals procedure.

We are extremely grateful to the School Governors and Staff at Ashton Gate Primary School for working with the Council to enable this to happen.

In the letter to parents and carers, the school acknowledged that there is still a long term problem which the local authority must deal with, i.e. the provision of sufficient school places in South Bristol for September 2012 and beyond. They indicated that solutions in the area will be challenging to find, but Ashton Gate School are nevertheless committed to working with the Council to see if they can contribute to a solution.

Again, we are greatly encouraged by the community-minded spirit of the staff and governors.




Sunday, 22 May 2011

School Places Consultation - have your say!

Bristol City Council announced on Friday that it wants to hear your views on the recently published School Organization Strategy. The full press release is here and the website for discussions is at http://www.askbristol.com. Speak up for South Bristol!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Meeting Report

Here are the full minutes of the meeting held with the Council last week.

Meeting at Council Offices regarding

School Situation in South Bristol, particularly BS3

10 May 2011, 2.30 pm

Minutes

Present from BS3: Lottie Storey, Melanie Osborne, Alex Rogers

Present from Council: Craig Bolt, Clare Campion-Smith, Chris Brown

(a) Introductions.

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 Bristol. Clare Campion-Smith is an elected councillor, and the Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People. Chris Brown is a senior civil servant simply present at the meeting in an observational capacity.

(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 Bristol in September 2011 there are about 1000 more children than in 2007. Over the next 5 years, the shortfall in primary school places could be 3000 or more, if current capacity is not expanded. The details are laid out in a document called ‘School Organisation Strategy’ (click for link to this document).

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 Bristol does not operate a 'choice-based' system as such, and that choice only comes in when there is spare capacity in the schools. In the absence of spare capacity, the allocations are made on the basis of the priorities in published admissions criteria. He also discussed the lack of formal catchment areas, and that there have been discussions within the Council around current system vs catchments, but that his personal view was catchments simply shift problems around. Instead they need to 'increase the size of the cake before deciding how to cut it'.

(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 Road which 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.
  • Luckwell School: 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
  • Greville Smyth Park site: There is an undeveloped site opposite the entrance to Ashton Gate Stadium which could be looked at for future school provision
  • 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 S. Bristol.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

None

Meeting concluded.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Brief meeting report

Just a very quick update: we met with Clare Campion-Smith and Craig Bolt regarding the Primary School Admission problem in BS3 on Tuesday, and the meeting was encouraging. Full minutes will be posted on the blog when we've got them all typed up, but the highlights are as follows:
  • 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.
More detailed answers to questions etc., will be posted on the blog in due course.


Monday, 9 May 2011

Reminder: Questions for Cllr Clare Campion-Smith

A small group of parents will be meeting with Councillor Clare Campion-Smith and her officers tomorrow to discuss the primary school situation. If you have any questions you would like them to ask, please put them in the comments box or send them to southbristolsc@gmail.com.

A list of questions on the agenda will hopefully be posted to the mailing list before the meeting tomorrow, just in case it prompts any last-minute thoughts.

A full round-up of the meeting will be posted on the blog and to the mailing list as soon as possible after the meeting tomorrow: watch this space for news.

Deadline for Appeals / Waiting Lists - 10th May - TOMORROW

Just a reminder that the deadline for replying to the Council's letter is tomorrow, Tuesday May 10th.

If you haven't received any of your preferred schools, and are not happy with the school allocated to you, please appeal against their decision: it will highlight to the Council just how big the problem is in South Bristol. You can download the appeal proforma here.

You can also apply to go on the waiting list for your preferred schools: in either case the place you have been allocated will be held for you pending the outcome of offer acceptance, appeals and waiting lists. The Council say they are hoping to have waiting list information available by 24th May 2011.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Tell Bristol City Council what you think about choice of schools!

For all parents: with a child already in school, in the midst of this year's crisis, or needing school places in the future. They want your views so fill out this survey:
www.bristol-cyps.org.uk/schools/school-choices-survey.html.



Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Situation in 2009 and 2010

School Allocation Map 2009

The school allocation situation in 2009 looked somewhat different. Circles indicate the furthest distance from Southville Primary, Hotwells Primary, Victoria Park Primary and Ashton Gate Primary, that a child was allocated a place. The schools with no circles around had no preferences refused in the first round, i.e. they were not oversubscribed. This includes Ashton Vale Primary, Parson Street Primary, Luckwell Primary, Holy Cross RC Primary and Victoria Park Primary, all of which are oversubscribed this year. In essence, provided that you specified a local school within walking distance, you should not have been disappointed.

School Allocation Map 2010
In 2010, the situation has changed a little, but not much. Circles indicate the furthest distances from oversubscribed schools that a child was admitted from. Markers with no circles had no preferences refused in the first round, i.e. they were not oversubscribed. There is still large overlap in the area between Ashton Gate and Southville Primary, and several schools which had no preferences refused in the first round, including Ashton Vale Primary, Luckwell Primary, Parson Street Primary and Holy Cross RC Primary, all of which are oversubscribed this year. Again, in essence, if you put local schools as your preferences, you would not have been disappointed.

Compare the two maps above with the map produced for this year's intake (scroll down the page). As before, maps are only roughly accurate and some markers are not quite accurately placed. However, the situation remains clear: most of the people who have been allocated a school in BS4 would not have found themselves so placed last year or the year before.

Maps were created using Google maps and http://www.freemaptools.com and information taken from 'Your Child's Primary Education in Bristol 2011/12' published by Bristol City Council.

Questions for Cllr Claire Campion-Smith

One of our parents, Lottie Storey, has received an email from Clare Campion-Smith, the Lib Dem councillor, suggesting a meeting with a small group of parents to feedback from Monday's Tobacco Factory meeting and to work towards a solution to the problem. This has been arranged for Tuesday 10th May, and will be attended by Lottie and three other parents involved in organising the Tobacco Factory meeting. It will hopefully be a prelude to a larger, fully public meeting with Clare and other councillors with regard to the situation. 

We would like to invite you, therefore, to post any questions you would like Lottie and co to put to Clare and her team on Tuesday. We stress that this is to be a very small meeting, at Clare's request, so not everyone will be able to attend. We will disseminate all the information that comes out of this meeting to the blog to keep everyone as fully informed as possible.

Please email us with your questions: southbristolsc@gmail.com or leave in the comments section below.

Another Evening Post article, this time discussing the primary schools crisis in south Bristol - 4 May 2011

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/PARENTS-PLEA-PRIMARY-SCHOOL-PLACES/article-3515937-detail/article.html

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Evening Post - 3 May 2011

Looks like we could also be fighting for secondary school places in 7 years' time, if this article is anything to go by:
http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/City-set-run-secondary-school-places/article-3512233-detail/article.html

Falling through the cracks

This map gives you some idea of where there are cracks in primary school provision in Southville/Ashton/Bedminster. Each of the markers is a primary school; the radius of the green circle around it is the furthest distance from the school that a child was admitted from. It contains some inaccuracies: the marker for Ashton Gate Primary School should be moved over a little; and some of the data are missing, e.g. for both Holy Cross RC Primary and Compass Point/South Street School, we do not know the furthest distance a child was admitted from.

However, the map is clear: there are regions in the local area that do not have sufficient local primary school provision. If you live outside of the green areas, and your preference was not for (a) St Mary Redcliffe Primary (furthest distance 3.486km), (b), Parson Street Primary (furthest distance 2.712km) or (c) St George's Primary (furthest distance 1.128), you probably would not have got any of your preferences.

Image compiled using Google maps, http://www.freemaptools.com and data available on the Schools Allocation website.

The story so far...

On Tuesday 26 April, many excited families eagerly awaited notification of which school their child would attend at the start of the 2011/2012 school year. All were expecting to get one of their three preferences or, at the very least, a local alternative. Due to oversubscribed schools in many locations across Bristol, Reception-age children have instead been offered schools outside their local communities. Many parents had to Google the names of the schools they were allocated - these schools were so far outside their community they were completely unknown to them.

Word began to spread, and a concerned parent in BS3 organised a meeting for all parents in the same situation to meet and discuss possible alternatives. On Monday 2 May, in a packed room at the Tobacco Factory, parents from BS3, BS13, and further afield in Bristol, joined together with local councillors to discuss what to do next.

There are many families affected and so this campaign group was established to provide a voice for this large group of children who will NOT be taking up the school places allocated to them by Bristol City Council. We will work together to find a viable, local alternative.

Please join our mailing list if you are affected by this very upsetting and serious situation.