Record number of Bristol primary school places offered
A RECORD number of four-year-olds will receive offers of places at Bristol state primary schools from today, while more than 200 are offered a place at a school they did not choose.
The city has managed to keep pace with the continuing rapid rise in demand and says fewer families than in previous years will fail to gain places for their children in schools near their homes.
But councillors and officials say they will have to maintain the work to expand primaries and open new ones if they are to ensure there are still enough places in 2013 and beyond.
The number of children starting school in Bristol has gone up by 23 per cent in six years.
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The city council is today sending out responses to 5,321 parents who applied by the January deadline. This compares with 4,692 on-time applications last year and 3,992 in 2008.
Some 86 per cent of applicants have been offered their first choice school and 95 per cent have one of their three preferences.
A total of 246 children have been offered places at schools they did not request, an improvement on the 360 last year. Some of these are likely to gain places at preferred schools later.
The council is spending £14 million to create 300 extra reception class places at 14 schools for September 2012 and is still in talks with some other schools about possible additional places. The additional provision includes a new academy, The Dolphin School in Montpelier, a new co-educational primary run by Colston's Girls' School Trust, and a second site for Filton Avenue Infant School within the campus of Orchard School Bristol.
St John's C of E Primary in Clifton is expanding, thanks to the purchase of the old Redland Police Station, while Bishop Road Primary is able to take a fourth reception class because the council has bought a former scout hut on playing fields nearby.
It will become an 840-place primary, as will May Park Primary and Air Balloon Hill Primary in east Bristol.
Council officials said yesterday there remained about 240 unfilled reception-class places for September in about 12 primary schools in various parts of the city.
Overall, the Liberal Democrat-run council has agreed investment plans totalling £58 million for expanding, refurbishing and rebuilding primary schools in the city.
The Government announced last week an extra £22.8 million for Bristol so that plans can be accelerated for areas of the city where the need for new places is particularly urgent.
Cabinet member for children and young people Councillor Clare Campion-Smith said: "I am grateful to local schools and communities that have agreed to support expansion in order to ensure as many children as possible can take up a local school place.
"We've put in extra resources to help with enquiries in the evenings and through the weekends so that anyone with immediate concerns can talk to an expert and assess their options quickly."
About 90 per cent of applicants will receive their offer by e-mail today and letters are being posted first class.
Parents need to let the council know if they are going to accept their offer by May 4.
North Somerset, South Gloucestershire and B&NES councils are also sending out letters today.