School drops nursery class to make way for reception pupils
A SOUTH Bristol school has had to axe its nursery class provision for next year to enable it to take on extra reception pupils.
The move has been forced on the governors of Ashton Gate Primary after they found out a hoped-for purchase of land for an expansion of the school had been delayed.
Some parents are angry that the school, which has worked hard over the last two years to help the city council meet the rapid rise in demand for primary school places in its area, was placed in this position.
Now Southville Labour councillor Sean Beynon has written to the Bishop of Bristol, asking him to intervene to ensure the sale to the council of the church-owned land close to St Francis Church for the school annexe can go ahead.
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Meanwhile, the Southville Centre has offered to host a nursery class for the next academic year.
While this is not ideal for parents, many of whom will have to take a child to nursery and older children to primary school at two different sites, most seem likely to accept on the basis that their children will be able to move on to their statutory schooling next year as a group.
News of the late change of plan came in letters to parents on Tuesday from Ian Bell, the city council's school place planning manager, and Lloyd Fletcher, the chairman of governors at Ashton Gate Primary.
Mr Fletcher said suspending the nursery class for a year was the "least worst" option for governors, who had only just discovered that the annexe could not be ready for September.
Council spokeswoman Katharine de Lisle said yesterday: "Unfortunately, the detailed requirements on the use of land next to St Francis Church have delayed the council's purchase of the site. We are in touch with the current owners to try to resolve the situation and allow the purchase to proceed.
"In order to plan places for this September, we have worked with the school to take the difficult decision to use the current nursery class accommodation for the increased number of reception children. "
Mr Beynon said: "This situation is deeply regrettable, and I am grateful to the Southville Centre for their willingness to help.
"It is also important to recognise the unstinting work of the head teacher and governors at Ashton Gate School in creating additional and much needed primary places for children in Ashton, Bedminster and Southville. Faced with a very difficult decision they have, I believe, done the right thing.
"Ensuring the purchase of the land continues remains very important, and, while I am not party to the detailed negotiations, I have written to the Bishop of Bristol to ask him to intervene to ensure that the purchase can continue.
"I know that Bishop Mike will understand the importance of good, local, nursery and primary school provision and hope that his intervention can get things moving.
"Fundamentally, however, this episode shows again why a permanent solution to the school places shortage must be the council's top priority."