Delay to new secondary school in Knowle West slammed by MP

Opening to be pushed back a year – but temporary accommodation may be arranged

Main image: The Park Centre in Daventry Road where the new Oasis Academy will be built.

The long-awaited new secondary school due to be opened in Knowle West in 2023 has been delayed for a year – an action slammed by MP for Bristol South Karin Smyth.

The 900-place academy for 11-16-year-olds will be built on the site of the current Park Centre in Daventry Road -which is moving to a new building next door, due to be completed in December.

The new school will be run by Oasis Community Learning and take pupils from Knowle and surrounding neighbourhoods – with construction due to start in March 2022.

The site is also where the former Merrywood School once stood – which closed over 20 years ago leaving the area without a secondary school.

News of the delay has led Karin Smyth MP to raise her deep concerns in a recent House of Commons debate – that Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) were not being held to account for their actions.

MP for Bristol South, Karin Smyth. (Image courtesy of Karin Smyth)

She also said the government was failing the children and parents in Bristol South to ensure they were “at the heart of education”.

She 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 (DfE) and Gavin Williamson MP, the Secretary of State.

“All of the factors mentioned in the Department’s statement have been known for some time, this late announcement of a delay to a school due to open in less than thirteen months is a disgrace.

“Bristol City Council are now trying to sort out this mess and find temporary accommodation for 2023. 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.”

There has already been a rise in secondary school applications for September 2021 – but Bristol City Council said all pupils had been offered a place – and a projected rise of 192 places required for 2022. The council has set aside funding to assess where further places can be provided, which includes 2023.

“We share the disappointment and frustration parents feel with the delay…”

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “We share the disappointment and frustration parents feel with the delay and we’re pushing the Department for Education to move these plans along as quickly as possible. Despite the government’s ongoing inability to deliver much needed new schools, we remain confident that the excellent response from Bristol schools will continue and all children will have places as they need them.

“We put significant time and effort into working with a range of partners to ensure all children have a school place. Whilst we can expand current provision in places, where appropriate, we cannot build new schools. This is a responsibility that lies with the Department for Education and the council has no decision-making power when it comes to new schools.”

In a statement Oasis Community Learning said it wasproud to be the chosen education provider for the new Oasis Academy in South Bristol.”

A spokesperson said: “The build completion 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.

“The new indicative date for the academy building to open is 2024. The DfE and Bristol City Council are exploring the feasibility of opening the school in temporary accommodation for 2023, and we are supporting them with this process. We remain fully dedicated to ensuring the academy offers an outstanding education for local young people.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said they remained “committed to ensuring that local families have access to the school places they need” and in February announced Bristol would receive £11.9 million to provide the new school places needed for 2023.

“We have updated the forecast opening date for the Oasis Academy to reflect unavoidable delays and risks to planning and construction, and to ensure a smooth and safe opening at completion. We are exploring the potential for the school to open in temporary accommodation in 2023.”