Contentious school plan to be dropped
CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn High Down infant and junior schools in Portishead into two primary schools are expected to be dropped.
The Times has learnt a recommendation not to proceed with the proposal is likely to be adopted at North Somerset Council’s children and young people’s services scrutiny panel on November 8.
The authority will instead look at expanding St Peter’s Primary School in 2014.
A council spokesman said: “The key points of the report are that we are not going to pursue the option for the High Down school site.
“We are going to be looking at other options for the provision of future places in Portishead including the possible expansion of St Peter’s for 2014.
“Obviously this is at a very early stage and we would look to consult on this in the New Year.
“We will also be talking to other Portishead schools about how we can provide extra places for September 2013, ahead of a more permanent option.
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“The report for the panel also asks members to lobby the Department for Education for additional resources in order to purchase land or buildings to provide extra places in Portishead in the long term.”
The authority suggested changing the High Down site to provide more school places in Portishead as there is expected to be a shortfall for at least the next three years.
When the proposals were first revealed two action groups were formed – one by High Down parents and nearby residents who were concerned about loss of facilities and traffic problems.
Parents in the Village Quarter formed a second group to campaign for more school places in their area.
A public consultation was held and Cllr Jeremy Blatchford, executive member for children and young people’s services, also asked the public to send in their ideas.
Cllr Blatchford said: “The recommendation has been made due to public opposition and highways issues.
“The consultation was brilliant. I cannot speak highly enough of the way the people of Portishead responded.
“We need to have something that’s right for the families involved and we need to learn from this experience.”
Cllr Blatchford also confirmed interest has been registered for at least two free schools in the town.
Laura Haseldine from the Village Quarter parents group said: “I am relieved North Somerset Council has listened to the views of the residents of Portishead.
“I hope the council now use their resources to provide a solution that is appropriate for our children - school places where they are needed.”
Tanya Slatter from High Down Action Group added: “It is good news that the local authority has listened closely to public opinion, and agree now that High Down was not an appropriate site for expansion.
“Hopefully a more suitable long-term option for the parents and children of Portishead will now be found to resolve the schools crisis, along with a satisfactory interim solution being put in place.”