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
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.