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

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Ashton Gate Expansion Open Meeting Q & A

On Thursday 24th November from 7pm-8:30pm Ashton Gate school held an open meeting 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.

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 Expansion Survey

Following the Ashton Gate open meeting on Thursday 24th November, the governors of Ashton Gate Primary School have asked people to complete a survey on the proposed expansion of the school by Monday 28th November. 

 "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. "

Please support us by completing the survey.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/AGPS2012

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Notes from meeting with Craig Bolt (Service Director: Education Strategy and Targeted Support) 22nd November 2011

FUNDING

  • 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.

PROJECTED NUMBERS

  • 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.

SITE AQUISITION

  • 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.

APPLICATIONS

  • 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.

LOCAL SCHOOLS

  • 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”.

SUMMARY

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

SBSC's meeting with Craig Bolt (Service Director: Education Strategy and Targeted Support)

On Tuesday 22nd November 4 members of the South Bristol Schools Campaign met with Craig Bolt. Notes from this meeting will be posted soon.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Ashton Gate Open Meeting, Thursday 24th November

Dear parents and carers,

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.

At the meeting on Thursday we will provide a brief recap and update on the situation, including any new information that has come through from the LA by then. We hope to have an LA officer present, as well as documents such as outline plans and visuals for what the temporary accommodation would look like. There will be several governors and staff in attendance to answer your questions and listen to your views. Local councillors have also been invited. There will also be a brief questionnaire (online and paper) for people to complete, especially for those not able to make the date. This meeting is very much for the whole community, i.e., future parents as well as current. So please pass the word to your friends and neighbours.
I look forward to seeing you on the 24th. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Sincerely,
Lloyd Fletcher
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
Tel: 0117 922 7838
 
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: ashtongatep@bristol.gov.uk

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Letter from Ashton Gate Primary School

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: ashtongatep@bristol.gov.uk
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.
Sincerely,
Lloyd Fletcher
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
chair.ashton.gate.p@bristol.gov.uk
Tel: 0117 922 7838

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Questions for Bristol City Council

Bristol’s four MPs and Bristol City Council cabinet member for Children and Young People, Clare Campion-Smith met with Education Minister Nick Gibb on Tuesday 11 October to discuss the need for extra funding for Bristol. On 3rd November, the Government announced that Bristol City Council will receive £18.3 million additional capital funding this financial year to create new primary school places. On 15 December, the Council will announce how the money will be spent, and we will have a clearer idea of what improvements will be planned for BS3. For more information see the Related Press section.

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)?