Pressure on places

A boom in births a decade ago has left Bristol secondary schools too full and primary schools too empty. A bulge in pupil numbers is now working its way through school year groups.

City Hall chiefs are now grappling with how to change the capacity of schools across Bristol to cope with the flux in demand. About three in four pupils starting Year 7 this September were offered their first preference, less than last year, with pressure higher in north Bristol.

Details of the challenges facing education bosses were revealed in a recent report to the council’s schools forum. 

Reena Bhogal-Welsh, director of education and skills, said: “Although it was possible to offer all pupils a place at secondary school, there will be very few remaining spaces within secondary schools across the city. There remain whole areas of the city without places in some year groups. There will be very few places in any year groups for pupils moving into the city or requiring a change of school.”

Britain’s birth rate began to increase around 2003, rising to a peak in 2012 before falling again. Demand from primary school places therefore peaked in 2016.

Building work to make some high schools larger has been stalled, including at Brunel Academy and Orchard School. This is because of the ongoing economic situation, but also due to the complex contracts the council signed with private companies to build the schools in the first place, known as private finance initiatives (PFI).

By Alex Seabrook,

Local Democracy  Reporting Service