Lib Dem Councillors have issued a formal challenge to B&NES Council’s school places plan on the basis that it unfairly penalises families in South West Bath.
The plan, which covers the period 2017-2021, was recently signed off by the Cabinet. However, local Lib Dems say that too many children are being offered school places on the opposite side of the city from their homes. They are calling for the mechanism for planning and allocating places to be changed. Implementation of the Cabinet decision will now be paused whilst the Children and Young People panel carry out further scrutiny.
As lead member, Southdown Councillor Paul Crossley (pictured) will present the call in at the hearing on 15 May; he commented:
“We remain deeply concerned that many children from the South West of Bath are being allocated school places at St Mark’s, on the opposite side of the city. This is completely unfair and will have a huge impact on those families, in terms of cost, time spent travelling and inconvenience.
“This problem highlights the flaws in the school places planning system. The idea that a child from anywhere in Bath can equally easily attend any school across Bath is clearly wrong. More consideration needs to be given to the geographical context, issues such as transport links and travel times, and the impact on children.
“We believe this system unfairly disadvantages families in the South West of Bath who would previously have been well-served by Bath Community Academy.”
Odd Down Councillor Steve Hedges added:
“This school places problem just goes to show the need to keep a secondary school on the current Bath Community Academy site. Back in 2011, Culverhay school was threatened by the then-Conservative administration and then saved by the community and the subsequent Lib Dem administration. Now history is repeating itself. This Conservative administration must think again and ensure there are schools in the right places for local children.”
Lib Dem Communities spokesperson, Councillor Richard Samuel (Walcot), commented:
“Tackling Bath’s poor air quality and congestion problems is still a major challenge for the Council, but this plan does not take these issues into account. Minimising the need for pupils to travel longer distances for school should be an integral part of planning where places are needed. Not only would this help reduce air pollution, but it would also make life easier for families.”
All the Lib Dem Councillors representing wards in the South West of Bath have put their names to the call in, including those representing Twerton, Southdown, Oldfield and Odd Down. The call in will be debated at the scheduled meeting of the Children and Young People panel on Tuesday 15th May at 5.00pm.
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