New school needed for influx of families

PORTISHEAD will need a new primary school within the next five years due to the amount of housing developments in the town.

Building work at the majority of housing estates in Portishead has stopped due to the recession, but councillors expect work to resume within the next two years, followed by an influx of new families.

The news comes just two years after the council closed the popular St Barnabas Primary School despite parents campaigning to keep it open.

But Jeremy Blatchford, North Somerset Council’s executive member for children and young people’s services, said it would not be feasible to reopen the former school.

There is already a shortage of school places in Portishead. St Peter’s Primary School and Portishead Primary School will have to take an extra 30 pupils each in September and temporary classrooms have already been put up in preparation.

Trinity Primary School’s new extension will also be ready in time for the new term to cater for an extra 210 pupils.

Cllr Blatchford said: “It would not be feasible to reopen St Barnabas School. It would provide 105 places but only 15 reception places due to the size of the rooms.

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“We’d also have to spend millions of pounds to empty it and refurbish it as it is used by a number of different groups now.

“We’ve currently got a shortage of 54 spaces for two years and we have put up temporary classrooms to cater for the pupils.

“We also know that the current blip, due largely to higher birth rate, will clear in two years. Depending on how quickly the developers start building, we will need another 210-place school in Portishead.”

The news has come as a shock to parents who still do not understand why St Barnabas Primary School was closed.

Bev Hockings of Blackdown Road, who has two children who attended St Barnabas, said: “This is disgraceful. They should never have closed St Barnabas School, someone got this very wrong.

“Residents could see it needed to stay open so I have no idea why the education authority couldn’t.”

At a time when North Somerset Council is slashing �47million from its spending, Cllr Blatchford confirmed the authority will not be able to pay for a new school.

He said: “We will have to bid for Government money. However we can’t at the moment as it is too early.

“We would then build the school, but Government guidance requires it is operated by an academy or free school.”

Mr Blatchford added that the school would need to be system-built - a form of flat-pack classroom made from timber.

A report has been submitted to the children and young people’s services scrutiny panel so the predicted figures can be checked in preparation for a bid to central Government.