By Linder Tanner, Education Correspondent
PARENTS are continuing to press Bristol City Council to try to tackle some of the “black holes” in primary school provision.
The city has only just enough places for the expected 4,900 four-year-olds due to start school this September and in some areas families are not able to get their children in to any of the local primaries.
Several pressure groups have been set up since the first round of offers was made on April 26.
These include one in south Bristol, where Bedminster and Southville are particularly hard hit, one in central Bristol focusing on St Werburgh’s and one in north Bristol.
Councillor Clare Campion-Smith, cabinet member for children and young people, has met all the groups in the last week.
She was able to tell the north Bristol parents, many of whom have been offered schools more than two miles from home, that 60 extra spaces would be offered by education provider E-ACT at a new primary academy at the former St Ursula’s in Westbury-on-Trym.
But families in Redland say their homes are unlikely to be close enough for their children to be offered places.
They are planning a protest walk from Redland to Lockleaze next Friday to highlight their case.
Peter Davies, whose son Oliver has been allocated a place at Easton Primary School, said Redland was the only Bristol council ward without a primary school. Catchment areas around the closest schools, Colston’s Primary and St John’s had shrunk considerably in the last two years.
“The council talks about a Bermuda triangle. It is now a series of black holes,” he said.
Bedminster and Southville has seen a similar situation, where a rise in demand has left some families living close to several schools but not quite near enough to any of them.
Representatives of its campaign group said they had had a positive meeting with Mrs Campion-Smith and officers and were hopeful that some places might be created in September at one of the local schools.
They said: “We have been told that parents from Compass Point South Street have heard about our situation and are concerned about what will happen to our children. A group of parents went to discuss the situation with the head teacher, to ask whether they might be able to help us. This act of kindness has reinforced our view of this strong community, and we would like to extend our thanks to them.”
The group in central Bristol has begun a campaign for an extra class at St Werburgh’s Primary or the opening of a reception class at the former Fairfield School. Expansion at St Werburgh’s and opening Fairfield as a primary are in the council’s plans for the longer term. It is already spending £5 million creating additional primary places for this September but is looking at the particular pressure points raised by parents. The council’s school organisation strategy estimates that the equivalent of 14 new small primary schools will be needed across Bristol in the next five years.