Delayed: Knowle school on hold until 2024
The MP for Bristol South has regarded the delay to opening a new secondary school in Knowle a “monumental fiasco”.
By Becky Day
In a statement issued last month, the government announced that the 900-place school, which will be located in Daventry Road and part of the Oasis Academy trust, will now open a year later than planned, in September 2024.
MP Karin Smyth says that she is “appalled” by the news.
Councillors for Knowle, Gary Hopkins and Chris Davies, have also expressed their frustrations over the delays and are urging for temporary sites to open in the meantime to meet the significant demand for secondary school places.
A shortfall of nearly 300 places this year is expected to rocket by 77 per cent over the next three years.
But elected mayor Marvin Rees has confirmed every Bristol child would continue to have a school place despite the shortage of secondary places.
The school – which received outline planning approval last year to be built alongside a brand-new community centre at The Park, the site of the former Merrywood School – was originally planned to open in September 2023.
In the statement, the government says that the delay is due to the “additional time taken to prepare a robust planning application and further detailed survey and design works [and] further investigation of the key risks, such as the demolition of the existing community centre”.
Cllr Hopkins, who said the news came as a "bombshell", commented: “Knowle children suffer after leaving good primary schools as they get scattered around the city and outside when they progress. I have since had discussions direct with the civil servant in charge of the delivery and suggested some temporary sites to be investigated.
“There is a shortage of over 200 of first year secondary places and this was made worse by the planning problems associated with the promised new [Oasis Academy] school at Temple Meads.”
The Oasis Temple Quarter, at Temple Meads, was due to open in 2018, but that has also been set back to September 2024 at the earliest.
MP Karin Smyth said: “Parents, carers and children in Bristol South will be dismayed at this news of a delay in opening this new school, which represents another complete failure by the Department for Education and Gavin Williamson MP, the Secretary of State.
“Once again, local government is left carrying the burden of central government policy and implementation failures. I will be demanding an explanation from the schools minister for this monumental fiasco.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “We have updated the forecast opening date for the Oasis Academy in South Bristol to reflect unavoidable delays and risks to planning and the construction programme, and to ensure a smooth and safe opening at completion.
“We remain committed to ensuring that local families have access to the school places they need, and as part of that are exploring the potential for the school to open in temporary accommodation in 2023.”
Ms Smyth also raised concerns that multi-academy trusts are not being held to account for their actions.
A spokesperson for Oasis said: “We are working closely with our partners at the DfE and Bristol City Council on delivering the new academy. The open date is dependent upon key milestones being achieved such as planning permission, demolition works of the former Merrywood School and the construction of the academy building."
• Includes reporting from Amanda Cameron, LDRS reporter for the Voice