Parents of Bristol based children – sorry to alarm you. But there is a problem which many of you are about to encounter. We know this because we’re just going through this problem this year, and the problem is getting worse every year.
In a nutshell: if you live in Bristol it’s quite likely that your child(ren) might not get into a local school. And before you look away and say “it won’t happen to us”, consider this: over 350 families (ie around 10%) were not offered a local school for the September 2011 intake. Instead, many of these families were offered a place at a school on the “other side of town” – and in some cases over 3.5 miles walking/driving distance away. That’s 350 families.
Right across Bristol, one in ten children who don’t already have a sibling at a local school will not get a place in a relatively local school in 2011. And our local councilors (who have studied this) are predicting that it will be even worse in subsequent years – with thousands more places needed for children at their local schools.
And if you think “we’re going to be fine – we’re nice and close to [insert school here]“, think again. Most of us live very close to the schools we “knew” we were going to get into. The person writing this article, for example, is only about 400m from both Westbury Park and St Johns – and missed both by 60m. We thought we might “slip” into Henleaze, but there were nearly 400 applications for 90-something places. Instead, our child is expected to attend a school over 3.5 miles away – hardly local, by anyone’s standards.
This is a problem which has been brewing (and growing) for the past 5+ years. The Council has had plenty of time to think about it, warn us or solve the problem. But as this year’s parents of school starters found out, the council appears to have done none of the above to a satisfactory level. So you (like us) might soon be in the position of not having a local school for your child, and therefore facing (a) independent school fees, (b) moving your family to a location where there are school places or (c) home-schooling your child. All of which are a BIG call for most families.
This is not just a one off occurrence. It’s happened year after year. The Council talks about “black spots” where there’s a high risk of this happening, and almost all Councillors acknowledge that this is a huge and ongoing problem.
We’re in the process of putting more information together for parents in future years, so that you don’t have the shock and steep learning curve that we’ve had. We don’t want anyone else to have the unexpected stress that we did just a few weeks ago, with only a few weeks until the new school year starts. And we’re going to continue to campaign for local children to attend local schools, for lots of reasons which we hardly need to explain to you. But just take a look at this interview (earlier this week) on ITV, and this article in the local rag (about the 3.5 mile walk to Lockleaze) and this prediction by the Council.
So, what can you do? Well, we all need to voice our concern, and then get our heads together. The first step is to stay in touch with each other, so please join our mailing list here. We wanted to start by getting as many concerned parents and supporters together as possible, and then we’ll bring everyone up to speed and come up with plan(s) to get this sorted – whatever it takes.