Bristol City Council’s Lib Dem leader Barbara Janke has said sorry for not making clear in an approach to the Government that the shortage of primary school places is affecting the whole of the city.
The apology came in response to a complaint from Labour MP Dawn Primarolo, who accused Mrs Janke of ignoring the problems in south Bristol
The Lib Dem leader wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove earlier this month to press the case for additional funding for Bristol to help it meet the demand for school places created by the growing child population.
Councillors of all political parties and the city’s four MPs are all keen to ensure Mr Gove is aware of the scale of the task in the city, where it is estimated at least 3,000 places must be found by 2015.
But Mrs Janke’s letter twice mentioned difficulties in north Bristol, where the council has this summer created 60 additional places at the new St Ursula’s E-Act Primary Academy. The south of the city, where several ‘bulge’ classes had to be opened at short notice at primaries to prevent children from Bedminster, Southville and Knowle having to travel several miles to school, was not included.
Bristol South Ms Primarolo said: “The shortage of primary school places is an issue across the whole city, and it is extremely concerning that the leader of the council has not bothered to highlight this in her letter.
“Unfortunately, the impression that Councillor Janke’s letter gives Mr Gove is the Government should be focusing on resolving issues in the north of the city. In fact, we need a solution where all parents, wherever they live in Bristol, can be confident the Government will properly fund primary school places, and that the council will be organised enough to ensure that those places are close to home.”
Ms Primarolo said that the omission was “symptomatic of the way the council have botched this whole issue”.
“The council cannot afford to get this wrong. We need additional capital funding, and we need for the Government to recognise that this is a city-wide issue, and any additional funding meets the needs of communities in Southville, Bedminster and Knowle as well as those in Redland, Henleaze and Westbury-on-Trym.”
Mrs Janke said: “Dawn is right. At other opportunities, I’ve spoken for Bristol as a whole when making the case for more funding for school places. This is a citywide problem and I can only apologise on this occasion for what was an oversight that should not have happened.”
Parents in Bedminster and Southville, who last year lobbied successfully for extra classes close to their homes, were due to meet last night (wed sep 14) to launch a campaign to ensure there are enough school places in the area for 2012 and beyond.
The South Bristol Schools Campaign is concerned there is a large number of families with pre-school children in the area and some of the schools that took additional pupils this year might not be able to do so next time.
The meetings, at Bedminster Methodist Church in British Road at 8pm, aims to provide information about the current situation, estimate the number of children who require places for 2012 and raise support for the campaign for school provision.