By Ian Onions, Political Editor
Bristol’S ongoing primary schools crisis is due to be debated in Parliament tomorrow, after Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy won permission for a special debate.
During the debate, Ms McCarthy will urge the Department for Education to treat Bristol as a “special case” by stepping in and providing emergency funding to ease the chronic shortage of places.
An education minister will be obliged to respond to the debate which will be held in Westminster Hall, not the House of Commons.
Bristol needs at least 3,000 more school places – the equivalent of 14 small primaries – by 2015 to meet the education needs of its growing child population.
The city council believes it will have to spend at least £100 million to create these places by expanding some schools and opening new ones.
Most of the new classrooms are likely to be prefabricated accommodation rather than traditional buildings.
The council is even looking at buying and converting offices because of the shortage of space for new schools in some built-up parts of the city.
Ms McCarthy said: “This year, the council has spent £5.3 million on temporary accommodation to guarantee enough places this September.
“But this can’t continue. The council has used all the quick fixes it can and our schools have run out of space for yet more temporary classrooms next year.
“With the infant population set to rise steeply over the next couple of years, there is projected to be a minimum shortfall of 3,000 places by 2015.
“By next September, Bristol will need at least 14 extra reception classes.
“This means the council needs to urgently find permanent solutions and build more classrooms for our schools.
“However, the council does not have the necessary funding.”
Last July, Education Secretary Michael Gove announced an additional £500 million to help councils build new school places.
But this money has not been allocated and when it is eventually shared out, it is unlikely that Bristol will receive the amount it needs because the Department of Education will calculate grants on this year’s number of surplus places.
Bristol currently has a surplus in Years 5 and 6, but these are of no use to four year olds who will start school next September. Ms McCarthy said: “The unprecedented population growth in our city means Bristol must be a special case.
“The purpose of my debate is to urge Education Ministers to work with the Bristol City Council to provide a solution that will end Bristol’s primary school crisis.
“We can no longer afford to ignore this problem.
“Creating more primary school places in Bristol is unavoidable and it must be our top priority.
“Today, all over Bristol, children are unable to attend a school in their community and have to travel considerable distances to get an education.
“In my constituency, parents have been forced to leave their jobs because there is no place for their child at their local school.
“This is not acceptable and it cannot continue. Parents and children in Bristol deserve better.
“The city council and the Government must now work together to resolve this crisis before it is too late.”