Montpelier School Closure Risk as Council Launches Consultation

  • St Barnabas C of E Primary School closure – the school may close in August 2023 due to a budget deficit after falling rolls

A much-loved Bristol primary school under threat of closure has seen Bristol City Council launch a public consultation regarding its future.

St Barnabas C of E Primary School in the Montpelier area of Bristol, may close in August 2023. This is due pupil numbers being ‘significantly’ short of the school’s capacity.

Budget cuts have hit the school in an effort to mitigate the falling rolls. There is no longer a deputy head and year groups have been mixed, presenting challenges to staff delivering the full curriculum.

Bristol City Council says the school is now facing a ‘major budget deficit’ which cannot be solved by amalgamation with other schools or the restructuring of staff.

The council says overall, there is a 25 per cent surplus of places in the local area, with this set to increase due to a decline in the numbers of pre-school aged children locally.

‘Parental preference for admission to the school has been low in recent years. Surrounding schools also have available places but attract a higher number of parental preferences,’ the council says.

Two schools that have opened locally in recent years are both from multi-academy trust (MAT) Venturers Trust, a MAT sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers and the University of Bristol.

The Dolphin School on Bath Buildings, opened in 2012, moving to ‘state of the art’ new buildings in 2017. The Venturers Trust had been confident that the school would be at full capacity by September 2020.

Fairlawn Primary School, opened to two reception classes in 2015 in the re-modernised building of the former Fairfield Grammar School. Last academic year, the school had classes in each year group.

But both The Dolphin School and Fairlawn Primary School are struggling to fill their own rolls.

Fairlawn Primary School, the next nearest school to St Barnabas has a school capacity of 420, a two class intake per each year, though current census data shows there are just 256 pupils on roll.

The Dolphin School, which also has a capacity of 420, only has 269 on roll.

Bristol City Council says that ‘many of the surrounding schools belong to Multi-Academy Trusts where additional support can be offered and where costs can be shared.’ But, that St Barnabas had been unable to find a Trust to take it on due to the current and projected numbers.

The council says that although there continues to be new housing development in the local area, ‘this is not generating additional demand for pupil places.’

In consultation documents, Bristol City Council presented the total numbers on roll since 2015 according to the October school census of that year. As of November 2022, there are 70 pupils on roll.

Despite a rise in 2017, the number of children entering reception at St Barnabas has dramatically dropped. This data table and data coincides with the year that Fairlawn Primary School opened.

Families are continuing to try and save the school from closure with an online petition:

The consultation can be found online here:

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