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:

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Notes on public meeting

South Bristol Schools Campaign meeting
Tobacco Factory, 26th Feb 2012

The meeting was attended by Clare Campion-Smith (Councillor), Ian Bell (Bristol City Council Pupil Place Planning Manager), Gareth Potter (Deputy Head and governor, Southville Primary), Sean Beynon (local councillor and governor of Southville primary school), Peter Sell (governor of Ashton Gate primary school), Tess Green.

Main outcomes:
There are currently 330 places (including the bulge classes at Ashton Gate and South Street primary schools) for about 346 applications. This means about 16 children cannot be allocated a place locally unless a solution is found.
The Council are working with Southville primary school to create a bulge class there for September. And they are hoping to be able to open a new school in Sept 2013, and looking at potential sites although no land has yet been acquired for this purpose.
The money is there, the issue in our area is finding sites.

The meeting began with a reminder of last year's crisis. The problem has trebled since, and the trend is set to continue until it peaks in 2015.

Update from Ashton Gate primary school (Pete Sell, governor)
Following last year's consultation of parents and of the local community, the school is now in a phase of transition, setting up the early years provision including the nursery and 3 reception classes on the Annex site (St Francis church). The September 11 bulge class took the intake from 60- 90 pupils, and the only way of maintaining this expansion was to develop a new site (at St Francis). The governing body has voted to take the school to 3 form entry for 2012 and 2013. The planning details of the new site will be posted on the campaign blog.
A meeting on site is taking place soon between the head of the school and the Council's transport and highway officers to work on the crossing on North Street

What can be done to help:
Support will be welcome for the planning application at Ashton Gate, (and potentially at Southville primary school in due course). There will be more information on the blog.

Update from Southville Primary (Sean Beynon, local councillor and governor)
Southville primary school indicated to the Council that they wished to help if further places were needed and a solution could be found. The council are currently drawing up some designs.The favoured option is to replace the sheds (to the right of the school) so as to create a bulge classroom. The school is also prepared to look at off site options. Before this goes ahead the school needs to consult parents and the local community.

South Street (Compass Point) primary school
No one representing South street primary school attended the meeting but Ian Bell confirmed that the school had agreed to a bulge class this year and was looking at a scheme for further expansion to carry on with a two-class intake.

Update from the Council by Clare Campion-Smith
Citywide there has been a big demographic change, but the funding allocation has doubled, from £9.5 million to £19.5m for basic need in 2012-13, on top of which Bristol received £12.3m emergency funding from central government and the Council is looking to borrow and extra £20m to fund new schools. The funding is not now the problem, the issue is finding suitable sites.
The Council acknowledges that admissions is not a very parent-friendly process, and have been working to improve information on the website, to improve communications and have more admissions officers.

Update from the Council by Ian Bell (Pupil Place Planning Manager)
330 Reception places currently exist (including the bulge classes at Ashton Gate and South Street) and applications stand at about 346. Offers will go out on 20th April. Last year 82% of families got their first preference and 94% got at least one of their preferences. City-wide applications have gone from 4,000 four years ago to over 5,000 this year.
Although the shortfall is currently expected to be less than a whole class, the Council is working towards a solution with Southville primary, and looking at other possibilities for a third bulge class for the coming September.
The Council are aiming to open a new school by 2013.
The Council cannot talk in any detail about sites being explored as most would be bought on the open market. They have looked at about 20 sites but most are too small or unfit for purpose. Four or five sites are still being considered, some potentially available for 2013.
Although timing would now be very tight for a new build to be ready by 2013, a school could start running within less than a year by using portacabins while construction took place. It would take approximately 18  months to build a new school from scratch.
The Council's preferred route would be to open annex provision attached to a local primary school as the alternative is an Academy which requires inviting in sponsors and takes time to set up.

Notes from Question and answer session.

-It is projected that numbers will increase dramatically in 2013 and whilst we are nearing a possible solution for 2012 we need more spaces for 2013.

-The council is committed to finding another class for 2012 and will look at other possibilities in the area if an additional class Southville Primary does not look feasible.
There have been ongoing conversations with all the schools in the area.

-Holy Cross are willing to consider expanding, but there currently isn't a shortfall of places for catholic children and as a faith school they require permission from the Diocese to make any changes.

-Bristol has 19.5 mil for basic need and an additional 5.3 mil for modernisation of buildings. 

-If there were a gap in provision one year, followed by a new school, the Council would normally not open a Year 1 class for those children to come back into the area as they avoid moving children around. The new school would start with Reception only and build up year on yea. But if one child is out of the area, there is nothing to stop parents seeking a local place for siblings.

-Compulsory purchase is an option that has not been excluded for acquiring land, but it is a lengthy process and requires the absence of any alternative. The Council will not commit to a deadline for starting this process;  there are some fairly imminent decisions, some of which would still allow a new school to start operating in 2013. However, we would need to see significant progress by the end of 2012.

-It might be possible for part of Ashton Gate football ground to be made into a school but it could take too much time and other sites would hopefully become available sooner. Supermarket land is more expensive, but there have been talks at the Memorial Ground, for a mixed development including a supermarket and a school. 

-It is hard for parents to win an appeal at reception level. There is nothing in the admissions process that would leave the council open to a legal challenge

-Any new school would have to be an academy which is why an annex is preferable. 

-In terms of any detrimental affects to standards created by bulge classes, KS1 and KS2 results and OFSTED results aren't affected by larger schools, and there are a number of good models where this works. Ashley Down Primary is 4 form entry.
Regarding standards and quality of life for the children, there was a discussion around the meaning of quality of life for children. On the one hand this includes space in the school and on the playground and the quality of relations, but this must be balanced against the disruption for individual children, families and the wider community of having children sent outside their community.

-If a child had to be sent out of the area to school, their sibling could still apply for a school locally. 

-Once initial offers have been made, people can change their preferences and go on the waiting list for the school(s) of their choice. The schools then use the same admissions criteria for extra places as in the first round of offers.

-Secondary schools are usually on much bigger sites so that expansion is less of a problem. Pupils also tend to travel more at that level, and most schools are not directly run by the Council.

Saturday, 25 February 2012


A member of The South Bristol Schools Campaign was invited by Sean Beynon to a meeting with Craig Bolt on 23rd Feb. the following is a summary of some of the main points raised.

There is still a shortfall in BS3 but as there have not been many late applicants, the number is still lower than first predicted. 

It will not be possible to say for definite until the allocation process is completed, but it appears less likely that there will be the 'black holes' experienced last year .

The preferred option for both the Council and Southville Primary School is to create extra space on the school site. Other options have not been completely ruled out, but the replacement of existing sheds on the school site is being explored. There are, however, planning and other considerations which will need to be taken into account.

It is the Council's plan to secure a new site and provide extra primary places for September 2013. 5 sites are being actively pursued which would assist the Bedminster and Southville area. Having this number of sites is encouraging and different to other parts of the City.

The next order of events will be as follows:

The council will confirm allocations.
They will then work out the exact shortfall and need for additional places.
Then they will talk again to local schools who have offered to put on additional classes.
Once these extra classes are confirmed, they will send out offers.
This means that by the time offers are made, the additional places will already be agreed. 
Once the council have made an offer of a place, they are legally bound by it. Therefore, the offers are not conditional on any building works being completed.
If, as a result of extra spaces, people want to change their preferences after they have received an offer, they can opt to go on a waiting list for the school they want. 

Ian Bell and Claire Campion Smith will be present at the public meeting on 26th Feb and should be able to answer more questions on these and other related matters.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Reasons to attend the Public Meeting on the 26th Feb.

Is your child’s primary school place secure?

Update on shortage of BS3 primary school places for September 2012 and beyond

Two 'bulge' classes have been created at Ashton Gate and South Street primary schools, but a shortfall of reception places is still anticipated for BS3 in September – at the last public meeting in September 2011 it was estimated that 98 extra places were needed in Greater Bedminster, yet two bulge classes only accounts for 60 children.

Join with local parents, schools representatives and Bristol City Council for an update on the current situation and to discover what still needs to be done to ensure that enough primary school places are provided for local children in September 2012 and beyond.

The story so far

Following the school places crisis in 2011, and given the anticipated increase in demand for reception places in 2012, two 'bulge' classes have been created at Ashton Gate Primary and South Street (Compass Point). But these 60 extra places are not expected cover the real need for school places in BS3.

So far it is unclear what will happen to children who are not allocated a reception place at either of their three preferred schools, or at a local alternative.

It is anticipated that there is still a need for an another ‘bulge’ class in the area.

What happens next?

Parents are working with the local authorities to provide a short -term solution for the provision of a third bulge class for September 2012.

It is also imperative that longer-term solutions are provided to ensure that there is a primary place for every child in the future, without putting local schools under further pressure or compromising the quality of primary education in the area.

To avoid a repeated crisis in primary school places in BS3, the area ultimately needs a new school.

Until that is provided, however, parents, schools and the local authority need to work together to find creative solutions to secure a place within walking distance for every local child in September 2012.

What can I do?

Come to the public meeting on Sunday 26th February at 8pm in the Tobacco Factory Theatre.

Led by local parents, its aims are to provide an update about the current situation, determine what is happening for 2012 and future years, and to raise support for the campaign for school places in BS3.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Public meeting at 8pm on Sunday 26 Feb at the Tobacco Factory Theatre

There is still a shortage of primary school places in BS3!
South Bristol Schools Campaign have invited members of the council and representatives from local schools to attend and give an update on the BS3 primary school situation for 2012 and future years. If you are affected by this issue please come along to hear what is happening, ask questions and provide support.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Southville Primary are looking at ways to find extra primary school places for 2012.

As most of you will know, there is still a shortfall of primary school places in the Bedminster and Southville area. Ashton Gate and South Street have added extra classes for 2012 and beyond but another class is needed in order to ensure that our local children can attend a local school. Southville Primary School are looking at ways in which they might be able to help.

On 31st Jan, one of our campaign group was invited to Southville Primary school to meet with the Head Teacher, Sandie Smith, the Deputy Head, Gareth Potter and Local Councilor, Sean Beynon who is also a Governor at the school, to discuss the shortfall of primary school places in BS3.

They were having a Governor's meeting on the 1st Feb and a possible extra class was on the agenda for discussion.

Ian Bell, Bristol City Council Pupil Place Planning Manager, has been to see the school to see what could be done with their limited space. Initially, they thought that perhaps they could turn the nursery into another reception class. However, the nursery is now full and is providing another valuable service to the community.

There is no space for a mobile classroom on site but they have suggested to the council that replacing two sheds which are on site with a 2 storey building could provide an extra classroom and the storage space that they would be losing from getting rid of the sheds. The whole school is grade 2 listed and in order to change any of the buildings, they first have to find out whether they will get the appropriate permissions to do so. The school are waiting to find out whether this will be possible from the council.

The council are also looking at a possible site close to the school to have as an annex. We await a council decision on this.

The Head teacher is eager to help whilst cautious that any changes to the school should not detrimentally affect the current students and teachers.

We will keep you informed of any developments on this blog.