D-day on St Barnabas school closure plan

THE future of St Barnabas school in Montpelier is set to be decided this month.

Bristol City Council wants to shut the Church of England voluntary controlled primary in July.

It held a consultation late last year and a decision is due to be taken by the ruling cabinet on February 1.

The number of primary aged children in Bristol has fallen sharply in recent years and is forecast to continue declining. Several schools have reduced their admission numbers already and at the time the council made its announcement in November St Barnabas, which has space for 210 children aged four to 11, had only 70 pupils.

Parents and others in the neighbourhood are fighting to save the school in Albany Road, which they say has been at the heart of the community of Montpelier and St Paul’s for 150 years and offers a nurturing and supportive environment for children and families. Other neighbouring schools opened in the 2010s at a time when there was a big rise in demand.

Nearly 1,700 people have signed a petition opposing the closure of St Barnabas. It states: “Generations of local families have attended the school. It is a hidden oasis in the heart of the city centre, with its fields, woodland, vegetable gardens and playgrounds.  It is truly a community school, and everyone who spends time there describes it as a unique and very special place.”

The petition calls the proposal short-sighted and concludes: “Our children deserve the chance to carry on learning with their friends and teachers, in a loving school where their needs are met by amazing staff who do not deserve to lose their jobs. 

`’And the school deserves the chance to grow, succeed, and keep serving the community it has served for so long.”

One parent who signed commented: “St Barnabas is a magical school and provides incredible support to children with special educational needs and disability as well as lots of families on the poverty line. It is a haven of green space in inner city Bristol and is a huge part of the community despite its dwindling numbers.”

The council’s consultation document acknowledged that staff and governors worked hard to provide the best possible education but said it was difficult to deliver a full and balanced curriculum on a limited budget.

If the cabinet votes to shut the school, the council has pledged to work with families to provide places for children at their preferred alternative schools.