Will our area need another secondary school soon?

January 30 2014

PARENTS have started a campaign to ensure there are enough good local secondary school places close to Horfield Common in the coming years.

PARENTS have started a campaign to ensure there are enough good local secondary school places close to Horfield Common in the coming years.
They are concerned that the increased numbers of children in primary schools from 2016 will put pressure on schools that currently have empty desks.
A survey is being carried out asking opinions on the existing provision and floating the idea of lobbying for a new secondary free school.
The campaign has provoked lively discussion on social media, with some parents expressing worries that schools in the area are not high-performing enough.
However, Fairfield High School and Orchard School have responded robustly, urging people to look behind raw Ofsted reports and to visit their schools to see how well they are doing.
Hannah Han, who is behind the campaign which aims for 'positive change' in secondary school education in the area, said: "We would like to see all children in the area have access to a good, successful and thriving local school, where they can continue their education with their primary school peers.
"We want parents to opt for a school in which they feel confident. A school where everyone plays their part. We need to mobilise local parents to bring about that change."
The parent campaigners are considering a range of options, including working with existing schools to improve their standards and recruitment.
The survey has so far received responses from almost 600 parents. Results have indicated that there are parents who would like to send their children to a local school but are unhappy with the current provision, the campaigners have claimed.
However, two local schools have argued that Ofsted ratings and exam results "do not tell the whole story".
Kieran Kelly, chair of governors at Fairfield High School, said: "Fairfield is a diverse school serving a diverse community; it has a mix of aspirations and a mix of backgrounds.
"The contribution of the school leadership, its highly professional teachers and the children themselves make it into a school where learning is valued. As a result, many go to Russell group Universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.
He added: "We have the third highest retention rate in post-16 education in the city. Most importantly we are never satisfied; we are always considering how we can improve and we have some pretty ambitious targets.
"If people want to start a new school, it's up to them. However knowing what it takes to run an established and supported school, I would be wary of depending on amateur attempts to replicate a school that may only benefit a few."
Dr Helen Holman, headteacher at Orchard School, has reassured campaigners that they "need not fear".
She said: "There are good, local schools for families in north Bristol which are showing year on year improvements. It is crucial that families visit the local schools to see for themselves the work being done.
"Historically, families have been presented with headline GCSE figures which give no indicator as to the prospects for an individual child.
She added: "However this is not just a debate about exam results. School life is about so much more than that and schools like Orchard are delivering a myriad of opportunities which enrich the lives of our young people, many of whom go on to higher education."

 Dr Helen Holeman - headteacher at Orchard Schoo
Dr Helen Holman - headteacher at Orchard School