Two Bristol primaries axed - but one survives
Two small Bristol primary schools have lost their battle for survival – but a third has won a stay of execution.
Head teachers, parents and governors expressed their disappointment at Bristol City Council’s cabinet decision on Monday night to reaffirm the closures as part of a drive to reduce spare primary school places in south Bristol.
Supporters of St George’s Church of England Primary on Brandon Hill, on the other hand, were delighted after hearing that their school looks set to stay open until at least 2013.
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Cabinet councillor for schools Peter Hammond said that St George’s was a different case because its pupil numbers were stable.
This would mean money that might have been spent expanding St Michael on the Mount school to take the pupils from St George’s could now be redirected to bring forward the much-needed rebuilding of Whitehall Primary, The Limes Nursery and Millpond Primary in the inner city, where demand for places is most acute, Mr Hammond said.
The closures were first proposed in May last year as part of a review of all the city’s 110 primary sector schools. They were agreed in October but referred for further discussion after pressure from opposition councillors.
Mr Hammond said it gave him and the minority Labour cabinet no pleasure to recommend closing the two schools, but the Government’s demand to cut surplus places had to be met and was in any case prudent.
“It is not in our interests to be paying for empty desks,” he said.
“Indecision around surplus places has to stop because otherwise we are not serving the best interests of young people and their parents.”
The decision means that St Pius will close at the earliest in 2011, with additional places for Catholic pupils being created by expanding the School of Christ the King in Knowle West, possibly on a new site.
Head teacher Tony Halloran said after the meeting that he was thoroughly disappointed by the decision.
“We have very sound reasons for staying open. The whole purpose of the Primary Review is to drive up standards – and that is what we have been doing. It is not just about buildings, it is about what goes on inside the buildings,” he said.
Stockwood Green looks set to shut in September next year. Talks are to be held with the other two schools in Stockwood, Waycroft and Burnbush, with a view to creating a federation to run the three sites from September this year, reducing to two sites a year later.
Mr Hammond assured parents of pupils at Stockwood Green that their preferences for places at either of the other two schools would be met, if necessary by a temporary expansion at Waycroft.
Stockwood Green head teacher Lucy Wyatt said she was very disappointed by the decision.
“It is a very anxious time for parents and all members of our school community and we will be looking to support them through it,” she said.
Sally Campbell, a teacher at Stockwood Green and a parent of a reception class pupil, said she was sad and completely shocked.
“We are all just devastated that this is happening to our community,” she said.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Mark Wright, who is a governor at St George’s and a former pupil of St Pius, said he had mixed emotions.
He said: “I’m in the position of being delighted for everyone at St George’s, but thoroughly gutted for everyone at St Pius.
“I am at least pleased that the cabinet saw sense at the 11th hour regarding St George’s school. It’s important now that parents get behind the school, and that people keep wanting to send their children there. That is the way to ensure the that this lovely century-old school survives for another century.”
Conservative leader Richard Eddy is pressing ahead with his call for a vote of no confidence in the Labour administration following the lengthy school closures wrangle.
Mr Eddy and four other Tories have signed a motion calling on Lord Mayor Chris Davies to call an extraordinary council meeting to debate the matter.
The wording put forward by Mr Eddy and councillors Geoff Gollop, John Goulandris, Kevin Quartley and Jay Jethwa, says: “Council has no confidence in this Labour administration and, as a consequence, resolves to remove the leader of council, Councillor Helen Holland, from office.”
The motion will be debated at a meeting next month when Mr Eddy and his 12 Tory colleagues will be seeking the backing of the 32 Lib Dems and 1 Green councillor to unseat Ms Holland, leader of the 24-strong Labour group.
In a statement at the meeting, Mr Eddy said: “At the formation of this administration in May 2007, Councillor Holland made much of the fact that she recognised this reality and pledged to break with the past and run the council in a more collaborative fashion.
“If you fail to honour this pledge, then the Labour party will be directly responsible for the consequences which flow from such an abuse of power.”
After the meeting, Mr Eddy said the concessions made by the cabinet councillor for schools Peter Hammond were not good enough.
“He has completely ignored the cross-party representations and ploughed ahead with the closures of Stockwood Green and St Pius, while giving a merely cosmetic reprieve to St George’s,” he said.