Schools asked to take 200 extra pupils as new secondary opening is delayed

September 30 2020
Schools asked to take 200 extra pupils as new secondary opening is delayed

SECONDARY schools in East Bristol will be asked to make extra space next year to take on some of the 200 children whose promised new school will not be ready in time.

Oasis Academy Temple Quarter was originally meant to open in 2018, but planning delays meant planning permission for the new building beside the Feeder Canal (pictured above) was not granted until August.

Parents were told in February that the construction of the new school would not be finished until 2023 at the earliest, but that places for pupils in temporary accommodation might be available by the end of next year.

But Bristol City Council has now received confirmation from the government that no places in temporary accommodation will be available in time for the September 2021 intake.

The news has come as a huge blow to parents in the Redfield and Lawrence Hill area who had fought hard for the new school.

And it means nearby schools such as Bristol Brunel Academy, Bristol Metropolitan Academy and City Academy are likely to be asked to increase their intake to accommodate the children who should have started at Oasis Temple Quarter on a temporary site.

A city council spokesperson said it was not yet clear how many extra places each school would have to provide.

Campaigner Jenny Grinsted has called the failure “unacceptable” and demanded that the money set aside for temporary accommodation is given to east Bristol schools instead.

The council and the Department for Education have told parents that there are several reasons for the situation.

Flooding concerns expressed by the Environment Agency mean the government must consider whether to intervene in the council’s decision to grant planning consent.

A government 'call-in' would entail a lengthy public inquiry, the results of which would not be known for at least six months or more.

Furthermore, the council has been unable to find any suitable sites for temporary accommodation that the DfE is satisfied would be ready by September 2021.

Bristol mayor Marvin Rees said: “We’ve done our bit.

The mitigation we are putting in place for those children is to expand classrooms in other schools, and there’s a lot of work being done on that now.

We will be able to confirm precise details (later), but talks are going on with the Cabot Learning Federation, City Academy, Bristol Met and Bristol Brunel.”

Mr Rees admitted that the council had known for a number of years that the city would need extra secondary school places by September 2021.

But he said that getting schools built was no easy task and that it required multiple partners to “line up” including the DfE, the Environment Agency, developers and education trusts.

Ultimately free school delivery rests with the DfE, not the local authority,” he said.

Ms Grinsted said: “Children in Lawrence Hill suffer from more disadvantage and deprivation than anywhere else in the city.

It’s completely unacceptable that our children’s life chances will be affected forever by their failure to address this issue.

Existing schools being required to take many more children than they were designed to now potentially threatens the quality of education for every single child in east Bristol.

A Bristol City Council spokesperson said: “We are working urgently to secure additional temporary accommodation capacity in existing schools to accommodate the need.

We are also working with both the DfE and school trusts to ensure sufficient Year 7 places in 2020, with existing schools being required to take additional pupils to meet the demand.’’

By Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporting Service