Free school proposed for bustling town

A NEW free school could be created in Portishead to help the town cope with a shortfall in school places.

The organisation opening a free school in Bristol in September 2013, Bristol Primary School, has now expressed an interest opening a 420-place facility in Portishead in September 2014. has already identified a possible site but have not yet said where it is.

As the primary school place crisis continues in Portishead, parents desperate to avoid bussing their four-year-olds to Pill and Nailsea in future years, say they need to consider all options open to them.

Members of the Village Quarter Parents Group, who are campaigning for more places near their homes, have already attended a meeting with the potential sponsors and are now researching the option.

Group member Laura Haseldine said: “We are disappointed North Somerset Council has not come up with an acceptable solution to the school place crisis in Portishead. We are awaiting the outcome of the recent public consultation [on proposals to expand High Down infant and junior schools] but have to continue to explore all avenues to try and find a long-term solution.”

The news of a possible free school has been met with mixed feelings, with concerns raised about the standard of staff qualifications, the fact that some free schools are run as profit-making businesses and uncertainties over their future security when a change of government occurs. Some view free schools as an experiment while others are worried because they do not have to follow the national curriculum.

Bristol Primary School’s chairman of trustees Andy Burkitt said: “We are a non-profit making organisation and a registered charity. All our teachers have a post graduate certificate of education or a recognised UK teaching qualification and we pay the full national teachers rates of pay.”

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Many parents view the idea positively and say if funds can be secured and the directors will work with the parents it could provide the solution that is needed. A public meeting to discuss the idea is expected to take place in the near future.

* Meanwhile school admission forms for children starting school in September 2013 must be submitted to North Somerset Council by midnight on January 15.

Councillor Reyna Knight said: “It is extremely important parents put down three separate school choices and do not put the same school down three times. Should the first choice school be full, if there is not a second or third choice in place, the application will be dealt with at the end of the admissions process which has in the past been why some pupils were allocated a school outside their area.”

If North Somerset Council decides not to go ahead with proposals to expand the High Down schools, those parents opting for High Down 1 and High Down 2 will have the chance to change their application before places are allocated.