Over the last three years, there has been a 15 per cent rise in the number of children in reception classes at Bristol schools. This rapid increase in pupil numbers is expected to continue, with a shortfall of at least 3,000 primary school places predicted by 2015 if new places are not created. The council has been responding by building new schools and expanding existing ones, however, we need to set out a longer term strategy for how the city is going to provide more school places.
With this in mind, we have produced the School Organisation Strategy and would like your views on it and the key issues arising from it.
What is the School Organisation Strategy?
The School Organisation Strategy addresses the implications of this growth until 2015 and identifies things we could do to ensure families have access to school places within the city. The population growth in the city is not evenly spread leaving spare places in some areas, whilst other areas have too few places to meet rising local need – so the strategy considers where places could be provided / reduced. It also considers the implications of new homes which have received planning permission. The proposed actions in the strategy will be reviewed annually and specific schemes agreed based on available funding and population change / growth.
Overall, the strategy will clarify and make public how the council plans to meet rising demand for school and childcare places by developing new and expanded schools and will help with consultation with our citizens and communities.
The council’s has a legal duty to ensure that there are sufficient school places within our area to meet the present and future demands for pupil places; to ensure diversity in the provision of schools; and to ensure that there are increased opportunities for parental choice. Other legal duties and the radical reforms envisaged for the role of local authorities are set out in the strategy.
Bristol’s rising population
- There are over 69,000 children aged under 15 registered with GP’s in Bristol
- The population in Bristol is not evenly distributed. There are smaller numbers of both children and pensioners in some parts of the central areas of the City. The highest proportions of children live in the housing estates on the perimeter of the city centre. Find out more about the state of the city and population growth
- Factors affecting population growth include rising birth rates; immigration to Bristol – from within the United Kingdom, European Union and beyond; the building of new homes and also the strength of the city’s economy in attracting people to work here. These are all important factors in understanding our population growth
- Compared to the rest of the South West region, the population profile of Bristol is relatively young. There are currently more children under the age of 16 than people of a pensionable age. This is similar to the national average and that of other Core Cities
- There is a significant movement of pupils due to parental choice and through local authority placements: especially where reception places (first year of schooling) does not reflect local demand
How much is it likely to cost to find these new school places?
We predict that it will cost £165.15m to make the changes necessary to meet the need for new school places until 2015. We have identified funding for 2011-12. Beyond this, the council is in negotiation with the UK government’s Department for Education, along with other cities in a similar position to Bristol, to identify sources of funding for these additional places. We are currently waiting to hear the government’s funding proposals. There’s more on the financial implications in the strategy.
Key issues for Bristol arising from the draft School Organisation Strategy:
- The number of places available for very young children (up to the age of 5) in childcare is declining, with the exception of free nursery education for three and four year olds
- A large shortfall in primary school places is predicted: 3,000 places by 2015. This will increase to 5,300 places if planned housing development is built
- This shortfall includes a shortage of 950 places in reception (first year of schooling) by 2015, increasing to 1200 places if planned housing development is built
- Bristol needs to find the equivalent of 14 primary schools (approx. 2940 places) to meet this demand. This increases to 25 primary school (approx. 5250 places) if planned housing development is built
- The increased demand at primary, not unique to Bristol, is driven by increased immigration, birth rates and the recession causing more families to choose state, rather than private, education
- Bristol will need to continue to work with schools to find innovative design solutions for new classrooms and flexible use of existing space
- For many medium and long-term requirements the council will also be liaising with retail developers to help provide new school places
- Although there are currently surplus secondary school places, there will be a shortfall of Year 7 (secondary) places by 2017
- Bristol needs to ensure that the current balance of secondary places is maintained to remain viable for the future and to put plans in place to address the potential long-term shortfall
- It is likely that the Young People’s Learning Agency (a government agency) will permit an academy (and possibly a school) to establish a new sixth form irrespective of whether it is supported by demographic trends but dependent on their capacity to attract learners
- There has been a small decrease in the number of pupils with Special Educational Needs but the type of provision needs to reflect that more children are diagnosed with autism or severe language communication needs
- Bristol’s exam results have improved consistently over the last six years. There is clearly a narrowing gap between Bristol; other local authorities like us; and England’s large cities
We are interested in your ideas on how we can deliver additional primary capacity within the city and would welcome comments and suggestions as to how best to address some of the key issues identified within the School Organisation Strategy: particularly in relation to the longer term trends.
This consultation has now closed. We’re currently preparing a report of the response to the consultation and the survey which will be reported to the council’s cabinet of leading councillors. This meeting discussing the latest update of the School Organisation Strategy will be webcast live. We will update this shortly with details of the meeting and the report.