Plans scrapped for new primary in office block
PLANS to open a primary free school in inner-city Bristol in September have been scrapped.
The Bristol Inner-City Schools Trust had hoped to open The Bristol Primary School in a converted office building close to Eastgate Shopping Centre.
The trust, which received the go-ahead from the Government last year, had planned to eventually accommodate 420 pupils.
Some 114 children had already signed up to attend the school as part of its intake for 2013/14, while more than 550 had expressed an interest in attending.
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But it was announced yesterday that the Department for Education's backing for the project had been withdrawn because the plans had failed to meet "stringent criteria".
Steve Spokes, who was lined up to be the school's principal, said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision.
He said: "Obviously this is extremely disappointing news, not just for the trust but for the 114 families who had signed their children up for the proposed September intake.
"We have been working on plans to bring a free primary school to the inner city of Bristol for well over a year now and our consultation had been extremely thorough so we are also surprised at this decision.
"However, I can't comment any further until we have sat down with the Department for Education and talked through the reasons for this decision in more detail."
In December, Mr Spokes said he hoped to raise attainment among children from the inner city by focussing on literacy and numeracy. He said he wanted to establish the school in order to meet the needs of families who feel let down by local authority-run primary schools.
Mr Spokes said the idea for the school was conceived in 2011 in the coffee shop of Tesco at Eastgate, where he met with parents unhappy with the provision at local primary schools.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "Opening a Free School is very difficult. We have extremely rigorous criteria to approve applications to ensure taxpayers' money is being spent wisely.
"We thank the Bristol Inner-City Schools Trust for their work, but before any new schools open their doors, we have to be sure that all the conditions we ask for have been met.
"Making certain that new schools raise standards is one of the reasons why our free schools have been so popular with families across England. Plans for the Bristol Primary School have unfortunately not met our stringent criteria."
Free schools, one of Education Secretary Michael Gove's flagship policies, are state-funded but independent of local authority control.
In December city councillor Sean Emmett, who represents Lockleaze ward, said the proposed free school could undermine the city council's plans to expand local primary schools, with St Werburgh's and Glenfrome primary schools poised to be extended to meet rising demand.
A spokeswoman for the city council would not comment on The Bristol Primary School proposals but said: "Bristol City Council has and will continue to work with existing and new education providers as part of free school proposals, particularly where they can contribute to the provision of extra school places through a high quality education offer."