Parents action group appoint educational expert to drive forward plans for new free school
By Prue_Reid | Wednesday, December 05, 2012, 19:45
PARENTS in Portishead have appointed educational expert Marcus Orlovsky to drive forward plans to open a free school in the town.
The move follows growing concern about the increasing lack of school places in the rapidly expanding town – due to have a population of 30,000 by the time housing developments are complete.
Mr Orlovksy is looking to move forward plans to open a free school for up to 420 students by September 2004.
One of the locations currently being considered for the new school is unused office blocks in Newfoundland Way although other sites across the town are also being investigated.
Mr Orlovsky and his team will now work with local parents from the Village Quarter Action Group to draw up a proposal for a free school which needs to be submitted to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) by January 4 for its consideration.
If approved, funding for the free school would have to be sought from the Government and the new school could open by September 2014.
A special trust would be set up to run and administer the school, appoint staff and agree the curriculum.
The school, which is also hoped to have a nursery/pre-school attached to it, would be open to all students in the town.
Mr Orlovsky, a founder member and director of educational change consultants Bryanston Square - was one of three organisations to put forward a bid to open a free school in the town.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells and the Bristol Free Schools Trust also put forward proposals to the action group.
Mr Orlovsky said: "We are delighted that the parents and others, including the local secondary school and a number of primary schools in the area, are in favour of us driving this forward.
"However there is a long way still to go."
The move to look at setting up a free school in Portishead follows mounting concern about the lack of class places in the growing town.
This year more than 20 students failed to get a place at a primary school in the town, with some students now travelling to class in Pill or Clevedon.
Schools in Portishead have already been expanded since 2010 but statistics have revealed that there will be a shortfall of 103 school primary spaces in the town by 2015.
If the free school plan gets the green light, it would be the first school of its kind to open in North Somerset.
The Village Quarter Parents Action Group was set up by parents to investigate ways of providing additional places in the town.
Action group spokeswoman, Laura Haseldine, said: "We felt the proposal by Mr Orlovsky was the most inspiring and that it would provide top class education for our children.
"Following our meetings with the three different organisations, 88 per cent of parents were in favour of the proposals by Mr Orlovsky and his group.
"We are now continuing to gather support for the proposal by collecting names and details of those parents who wish their children to attend this school."
North Somerset Council is also currently looking at the possibility expanding St Peter's Primary School at Hallets Way from a 420 place to a 630 place primary to provide additional class places.
The council has set up two separate working parties to look at the feasibility of expanding St Peter's School into an all through primary.
It has also earmarked £400,000 to look at ways of providing additional school places in the town for September 2013.
The cash could be spent on providing new temporary classrooms or carrying out minor alterations at primary schools across the town to ensure there is sufficient reception and year one places for students at the start of the next school year.
Councillors have also agreed to press the Department of Education to provide additional funding which could enable the authority, a free school or academy to purchase land or buildings to provide additional school places.
Portishead is said to be the fastest growing town in Europe and when developments are complete will have a population of around 30,000.