School plans fall further behind

THE opening of Lyde Green’s planned secondary school and extra primary school has been delayed again.

South Gloucestershire Council has admitted that an opening date of September 2024 for the new schools on a shared site in Honeysuckle Road can no longer be met.

The authority says it will not even be in a position to announce another opening date until the autumn, when a two-year building programme will be finalised.

Parents of children at Lyde Green Primary School held a protest at the lack of progress on the new school, and a town councillor has written to the Education Secretary to ask why the government had taken so long to commit funds.

The latest delay means the new school will no longer be ready for children who are now in Year 5 at Lyde Green Primary School, and are due to start secondary school in September next year.

Children currently in Year 4 could also miss out if building does not get under way in time this year, as they are due to start secondary school in September 2025.

Nicola and Andrew Stone organised the parents’ protest on March 16.

Nicola, who had to take a bus to secondary school when she was growing up, said she wanted her daughter Matilda, who is in Year 5, to be able to walk to one in her own community.

She said: “I don’t want her to have to worry about having to get buses home and not being able to stay for after-school activities.

“This year we heard that 30 children didn’t get their first choice and a lot of families are being offered Kings Oak, in Kingswood.

“With Matilda’s year being bigger, there will be even more children to find places for. It’s something parents are discussing regularly.

“The council are talking about it but that’s all – there isn’t a new school there, being built.”

The new schools were initially given the green light by the Department for Education in February 2021, with the government saying it would commit £26 million and the council more than £10m.

An opening date of September 2022 was given but this was put back twice last year – by 12 months each time – before the latest postponement was announced, the day after the parents’ protest.

Council cabinet member for schools Erica Williams said: “We appreciate the community are very keen to know when the schools will open and we will confirm the dates that work will begin, and when they will be open, as soon as we are in a position to do so.”

The council said £30m of government money and £11m of its own was now in place, but it was still “working with the Department for Education on the timescale for the schools to be delivered”.

It said it expected the full building programme and funding to be agreed “in the autumn”, adding: “While the council is keen to see the new facilities built as quickly as possible, it does not have direct control over the programme of construction.”

Emersons Green town councillor Matt Palmer has written an open letter to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, saying: “The fact that the school is no further along than it was over a year ago definitely requires a response.”

The DfE declined to comment on Cllr Palmer’s letter, but said the council was responsible for the delivery of the new schools.