Free school wants most students to come from one postcode area
BRISTOL Free School is inviting comments on its plans to centre its permanent catchment area in Westbury-on-Trym.
The secondary school, which opened in September, intends to continue to take most of its students from the BS9 postcode area, which includes Westbury, Henleaze and Stoke Bishop.
A couple of dozen children a year who live close to the school's site in Burghill Road, Brentry, will get places but others from areas which share its BS10 postcode, including Brentry, Henbury and Southmead, could be denied access in favour of children who live further away in more affluent neighbourhoods.
This is because the Government agreed to fund the school, one of the first of the new-style free schools, following demand from BS9 parents, who were upset that there was no state secondary in their neighbourhood.
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It had been hoped to create the school at the former St Ursula's independent school in Brecon Road but Bristol Free School is now staying put and developing at its launch site, a former Government office building.
Its governors say their aim remains to create a school for BS9 children and that is why their proposed admissions priority area is based on that area's boundaries, modified slightly to accommodate close neighbours of the school.
There are 150 places on offer each year. Priority will be given to children in care, those with special needs and those with brothers or sisters at the school. After that, 20 per cent of the remaining places will be offered to those living nearby, with distances measured from the centre of the school site to homes.
The rest will be allocated to those living closest to the mid point at the junction of Elmlea Avenue and Rylestone Grove.
People do not have to live within the catchment area to apply to the school. If not all the places are filled from the priority area, those outside will be considered, again on an 80-20 basis.
Parents, parent groups, other Bristol schools and academies, other admission authorities, neighbouring local authorities and church authorities are being invited to comment on the proposals before February 28.
If agreed, the new arrangements will be for children starting at the school in or after September 2013.
The free school is close to two other secondary schools, Henbury and Orchard. Opponents said it was not needed as there are many spare places at schools in the area.
The free school filled about 80 of its 150 places in Year 7 for 2011. Parents will find out on March 1 whether it and other schools have been over or under-subscribed for 2012.
The number of surplus places could well rise this year because the number of 11-year-olds has fallen.
However, within a few years more secondary places will be needed as the larger numbers of children in primary schools move on.