Agenda item

Temple Quarter Free School Update

Minutes:

The Director of Education & Skills introduced the report.

 

·     The Cabinet Member for Education stated the advice had been that this would be a difficult site to bring forward. It was expected that the application may be called in by the Secretary of State, which had now happened.

·     The Cabinet Member for Education advised the Commission that she had invited the BS5 Secondary Forum to meet with her last December and had worked with them closely since.  There had been a real desire to engage, to keep parents informed and be open and honest throughout.

·     The understanding of the Cabinet Member for Education was that Oasis had supported the plans for the school, but had reached a point in January 2020 where they halted the provision of a head teacher as a result of the fact there was no opening date and the post was not funded.

·     The Commission was advised that the communication between the Department for Education and the Council had needed improvement.

·     The Chair stated only Oasis had pitched for the school; that the plan was ambitious and difficult to manage; that it was important that Oasis provided their view on the status of the project.

·     At the time it was thought the Free School route would be quicker.  The Chair stated that she had experience as a parent who waited for a school, and that it was time to move forward and deliver for children.

·     The Director of Education and Skills clarified that there had not been an opportunity to bring this matter to scrutiny earlier; it was in response to the risk of potential call in raised in August; and after the position was known from the DfE that the school would not open in temporary accommodation a solution had to be found very quickly before December Cabinet.

·     The Commission was advised that it was confirmed the Year 7 cohort in 2021 would remain with CLF throughout, and there would not be a separate transition.

·     There was still a risk that temporary accommodation would not be ready for Temple Quarter site for 2022, and so a 2 year response had been built in.

·     The original plan was to place temporary accommodation on a CLF site.  The Council was not responsible for temporary accommodation linked to Free Schools. It had been decided that, rather than use the £4.5M for temporary accommodation, this money should be ring-fenced and put to a longer-term strategic intent for the CLF. 

·     There was an agreement that MPs should be used more to ensure issues not in control of the local authority were brought to the attention of the DfE.

·     The Commission was advised there was a risk and concern that the planning consent would not be given; and so part of the parallel planning was that if the planning consent was not granted or the DfE decided to not proceed, then there was a need for a separate solution. As the Council needed to wait for DfE direction, alternatives had been unclear. The Council could not place additional funding for an alternative solution whilst awaiting decisions from the DfE.

·     Talks would need to be resumed with the DfE, and it was confirmed that communication had been positive over the last months. The new Regional Schools Commissioner had kept the Council informed.

·     If the Free School solution was not pursued capital funding would need to be identified in order to make permanent expansions within the existing education estate.  Any decisions to invest would not be able to take place before it was known the outcome of the considerations about the Silverthorne site.

·     The Cabinet Member for Education and Skills confirmed Bristol MPs had engaged in meetings; and that having a second plan had costs associated, which included feasibility studies.

 

RESOLVED;

 

·     That the Commission be provided with an update on the work done on alternative sites and related planning considerations;

·     That the Cabinet Member for Education and Skills meet with the Director of Education,  Chair and Scrutiny Group Leads, to consider the questions and points made in the Public Forum submissions; and review next steps, including communication to Robert Jenrick MP and an appraisal of the Learning City Partnership decisions before minutes were published.

 

Supporting documents: