SOUTH GLOUCESTERSHIRE COUNCIL: Primary school ‘strapped for space’
A primary school that a councillor described as being “strapped for space” is in talks with South Gloucestershire Council about possible plans for expansion.
Bailey’s Court Primary School in Bradley Stoke has outgrown its hall and other facilities since it was planned in 1996, the authority’s ruling group heard on Monday (October 11).
Local councillor Roger Avenin asked the Conservative administration to find funding from this year’s capital budget to support the school’s expansion plans, which he described as “essential” for the school to “function effectively”.
“They’re absolutely strapped for space,” he said. “The headmaster has to hold two, sometimes three separate assemblies. The staff meeting rooms are inadequate. There are only two toilets for 60 female staff who have to queue in the busy corridor. And there is a lack of office space, meeting rooms for parents wishing to speak with staff.
“The reception hall is so small it can only accommodate three people, so other parents wishing to speak to staff have to wait outside or queue in the rain and the cold.”
Cllr Avenin pointed to several budget lines for schools from the capital budget for 2021/22 that he thought might contain unallocated cash.
Erica Williams, who is the cabinet member for education for the Conservative administration, said the budgets highlighted were for school repairs and maintenance only.
“I would not recommend that members consider diverting this fund to meet other capital improvements on the basis that keeping our schools safe, open and operational is our priority,” Cllr Williams said.
But the headteacher of Bailey’s Court Primary School told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the cabinet meeting that the school was in the process of costing an expansion plan and the council was being “very supportive”.
Andrew Lynham said the school had worked with an architect to produce some designs to make the school entrance area and school hall bigger, and expand the staff facilities, adding staffroom space, meeting rooms, and toilets for female staff.
“It’s not the case at all that the council won’t fund us,” he said. “They’re actually being very supportive of exploring ways to look at this in challenging times for everybody.
In what turned out to be an exaggeration, Cllr Avenin told cabinet members the school had “ten times” the number of pupils it was built for and that the headmaster had to hold “two, sometimes three” separate assemblies to fit them all in.
But Mr Lynham clarified that although the school was built for 270 pupils, with an intake of 45 pupils per year, extra classrooms had been built since then to accommodate the 450 pupils it now has on its roll.
“It would be wrong to say that we don’t have enough classroom space because we absolutely do,” he said.
“Our concern is the staff facilities are very tight. It’s also recognised that we could benefit from making the hall bigger.
“We can get all the children in the hall but it’s tight. What we can’t do is then invite parents to come in.”
Mr Lynham said the school holds two or three separate assemblies only when it needs to invite parents for productions or at Christmas, which “is in keeping with what a lot of schools do”.
He said the school was “healthy budget-wise” and was working with the council to cost its plans, decide what is affordable, and determine how much funding might come from the local authority and from its own budget.
“It’s still very early days,” he said.
Bailey’s Court Primary School was rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted after its last full inspection in 2013.
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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