Meeting the Challenge for More Primary School Places

James Anderson
Britain is facing the worst shortage of school places for decades. Local Authorities are faced with overcrowded classrooms, schools expanding beyond an optimum size and children travelling further to school.

The National Audit Office (NAO) has confirmed that 256,000 new school places need to be provided by 2015 to meet increased demand and although the Department for Education has increased funding to local authorities, there has been a net increase of almost 81,500 primary school places in the last two years. This means many local authorities are still under considerable financial and time pressure to deliver additional primary school places.

Bristol City Council's School Organisation Strategy 2012-2016 (PDF, 3.4 MB) addresses the implications of the city's growth and identifies the need of additional primary school places as a priority. Like many authorities, Bristol procured a Local Education Partnership (LEP) under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) initiative. Although BSF ended in 2010 the Bristol LEP was adapted successfully to deliver numerous smaller contracts for primary schools after the larger BSF secondary school schemes finished. The flexibility of the LEP and high performance levels have ensured this will continue to be a key delivery route for the Council until at least 2016.

...many local authorities are still under considerable financial and time pressure to deliver additional primary school places.

I am currently seconded to Bristol City Council, as Programme Manager, which involves delivering additional basic need primary school places and addressing the increasing requirement to develop provisions for special educational needs.

My role is to act as the client on behalf of the Council for all their capital educational expenditure, maintaining its collaborative relationship with the Bristol LEP and ensuring that value for money, programme and quality are maintained. This requires real innovation by the delivery team to identify and deliver ways of providing education provision in Bristol’s extremely land-constrained environment.

My role is to act as the client on behalf of the Council for all their capital educational expenditure, maintaining its collaborative relationship with the Bristol LEP and ensuring that value for money, programme and quality are maintained.

An excellent example of this is a scheme about to be submitted for planning approval at Avonvale Road, Lawrence Hill, where Council staff using the site will be relocated as part of the rationalisation of office space within the city. The new-build Academy (to be operated by Educate Together) will admit its first 60 reception age students this September and will provide 420 new primary places when it’s completed in 2015.

The shortage of land and appropriate sites for expanded education provision has meant that there has been a need to seek unusual solutions. The Council has agreed the purchase of a tobacco company's global headquarters to be refurbished into an annex for Ashton Gate Primary School, doubling the schools population to 840 pupils split over 2 sites.

Client feedback is very positive with our role seen to be adding value to the Council’s mission to deliver the additional places as well as helping improve the educational experiences and prospects of local children.

The Council is also partnering with the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) on plans for a new 420 pupil school to serve the Knowle West area of Bristol. The scheme is part of a local regeneration project, which will include a new health centre, homes and employment space.

Client feedback is very positive with our role seen to be adding value to the Council’s mission to deliver the additional places as well as helping improve the educational experiences and prospects of local children. It is pleasing to see the positive impact that Faithful+Gould is able to have in helping Bristol's children reach their potential in high quality local schools while helping develop community cohesion within the city.