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.

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