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:

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
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.
Lloyd Fletcher
Chair of Governors
Ashton Gate Primary School
Tel: 0117 922 7838

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