‘Longstanding Neglect and Apathy’ Blamed for School Places Crisis in Bristol

A local councillor has blamed ‘longstanding neglect and apathy’ from Bristol’s elected mayor Marvin Rees, for the critical lack of school places in both mainstream and specialist.

The accusation came in a statement Green councillor for Southville, Christine Townsend made in Overview and Scrutiny Management Board (OSMB) this week.

Townsend’s statement related the long-term shortage of school places for mainstream year 7 and children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (Send) in Bristol.

She quoted an update given to People Scrutiny Commission in July 2021 by Bristol’s Director of Education and Skills, Alison Hurley.

At the time, Hurley told members of the Commission that: ‘We come back to Cabinet October November time to allocate the new capital grant looking at the risk profile around year seven, but also the means to allocate and identify a funding available for specialist provision as well.’

But Christine raised concerns in her statement as part of Public Forum to OSMB that the Mayor’s Forward Plan on the agenda did not list a school-places capital paper for either November or December.

She said: “This should be a great concern to all of us. Families and children in year six are currently applying for year seven mainstream school places that literally do not exist. We are in a position of putting the council at risk of not fulfilling one of our most fundamental legal duties for our children – the universal service of education.”

She also highlighted the anxiety of families whose children have an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) or those who are currently going through the assessment who worry about whether their children will be able to get a school place to meet their needs.

Continuing she said: ‘Those currently with an EHCP or being assessed for an EHCP that might need a special school place are also in that very same position. Uncertainty of not knowing where or if their child might be able to access a place that can fully cater for their needs

“Whilst responsibility for ensuring school place efficiency and communication of such sufficiency is entirely the responsibility of the administration, I stand before you today to officially put on the record the concerns of the Green Party councillors regarding this statutory issue.

“The current position places an additional uncertainty and anxiety onto families as a result of long-standing neglect and apathy from the elected Mayor with regards to this children’s universal statutory service.”

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