Organisation hopes to open town's first free school in empty building
A FREE school could be opened in a redundant building in Portishead in a bid to solve the crisis of a lack of primary school places in the town.
The Bristol Schools Trust, currently behind plans to open a free school in the St Paul's area of Bristol, has been talking to parents in Portishead about the possibility of opening a free school by September 2014.
If the move gets the go-ahead it would be the first free school to open in North Somerset.
Trustees have identified a redundant building in the town which could be suitable, but refused to be drawn on its location.
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The trust would have to apply to the Department of Education for permission to open a free school.
If permission is granted funding for the school, which would be run by a board of trustees and the governing body, would be sought from the Department of Education.
A new trust – called the North Somerset Schools Trust – would be set up to run the Portishead school, which would cater for up to 420 students aged four to 11 years old.
A series of meetings have already been held with the Village Quarter Parent Group, set up to look at ways of solving Portishead's growing school places crisis.
Bristol Schools Trust chairman Andy Burkitt said: "We are investigating the possibility of opening a free school in Portishead after being contacted by a number of parents.
"We have identified a potential site and we are talking to parents. It is in the early stages and at present we do not want to reveal the location of the site. However we are looking at a redundant building in Portishead which may be suitable. The school would be out of the control of the local authority and run by trustees and a board of governors."
The trust would need to apply to the Government by January 4 next year for permission to open a free school in Portishead.
Mr Burkitt said: "We have already held meetings with parents and further meetings are being organised in the coming weeks."
North Somerset Council is looking at ways it can provide additional school places in Portishead and had been considering expanding High Down Infant and Junior Schools to provide an additional 210 places.
But this idea looks likely to be scrapped due to opposition from parents and local residents.
Other options are being investigated including expanding St Peter's Primary at Hallet's Way from a 420-place to a 630-place primary or increasing capacity at Portishead Primary to a 630-place school.
Other ideas include expanding St Joseph's from a 210-place primary to 420 places or increasing the size of Trinity Primary using an existing football pitch.
Another option is to re-open St Barnabas School, which closed in August 2009, to provide an additional 105 places along with establishing an all-through school for children aged four to 19 at Gordano Academy.