Bristol Free School

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Bristol Free School
Established 2011
Type Secondary Academy
Trust Bristol Free School Trust
Headteacher Paul Jones
Founder Russell Education Trust & Parents Voice
Location Concorde Drive, Burghill Road
BS10 6NJ
51°30′03″N 2°36′48″W / 51.5008°N 2.6134°W / 51.5008; -2.6134Coordinates: 51°30′03″N 2°36′48″W / 51.5008°N 2.6134°W / 51.5008; -2.6134
DfE number 801/4001
DfE URN 136822 Tables
Ofsted Reports
Capacity 1090 (Data from January 2016)
Students 702 (Data from January 2016)
Gender Mixed
Ages 11–18
Houses Tutor Groups (1-8)
Colours Blue, White, Black

Bristol Free School is a Secondary Academy that opened in Westbury-on-Trym,[1] Bristol, England, in September 2011.[2]

BFS has capacity for 1050 pupils across Key Stage 3 and Key Stage 4.[3] In addition, the school opened a Sixth Form recently in September 2016, which will educate students from Bristol who have achieved grades A* to C in at least 5 of their subjects at GCSE level.

It is located in the Westbury on Trym and Southmead ward areas, at former Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Environment Agency offices, which were converted for use by the school, which have been rebuilt. Bristol Free School is secular and non-selective. The curriculum is broad with an emphasis on Physical Education and Science. The school day is average, timed at 8:30am to 3:00pm. The school teaches on English official boards Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations (OCR), and Edexcel.[4]

BFS was first inspected by Ofsted in February 2013, when it was given an overall judgement of Good, with Outstanding Leadership and Management, and Outstanding Pupil Behaviour and Safety, which is a huge achievement for a first.[5]


Bristol Free School was proposed following a 20-year history of parental campaigning in response to a perceived lack of suitable secondary school places in North Bristol.[6][7][8][9] The campaign group, Parents Voice,[10] wanted to open a secondary school either at an Adult Education Centre at Stoke Lodge,[11] or on the former St Ursula's School site, to serve the Westbury-on-Trym, Stoke Bishop, Sneyd Park and Henleaze districts of north west Bristol which had no nearby state secondary school.[12] However residents near Stoke Lodge wanted no development,[13] and Bristol City Council wanted to use St Ursula's E-ACT Academy for a primary school, which is currently being rebuilt. (Data from September 2016).[14]

Initial approval for the school's plan and business case was given by the Department for Education in November 2010.[15] Final approval was given in May 2011.[16]

In January 2011, 417 members of the community signed a petition to ask Bristol City Council to allow a secondary school on the St Ursula's site.[17] Following this and other representations, Bristol City Council Cabinet gave an "agreement in principle" to allowing Bristol Free School to move to St Ursula's in 2012, in a split-site arrangement with a new Primary Academy.[18]

In July 2011, the school was granted planning permission to use a former Environment Agency and DEFRA site on Burghill Road,[19][20] in the neighbouring area of Brentry within the Southmead electoral ward.[21][22] This was expected to be a temporary site as the school anticipated moving to the St Ursula's site in September 2012. The Burghill Road site was earmarked to rehouse on a single site over 1,000 civil servants based in nearly 60 buildings in Bristol, prospectively saving more than £6 million per year.[23]

In July 2012 it was confirmed that Bristol Free School would remain at the further developed Brentry site.[24][25] DEFRA held a 39 year lease on the site, which is owned by Bristol City Council.[26] An £8 million contract was let by the Department for Education to refurbish existing buildings and build new buildings to support the expansion of the school from 2013.[27] Total capital spending by the department to set up the school was £9.6 million, the largest amount amongst the first batch of fifteen free schools, plus £0.75 million of extra initial revenue funding.[28][29] On the 25th of June, Bristol Free School opened its new building to students.

At the end of its first year the school was featured in an ITV News report about Free Schools.[30]

General Information[edit]

The school is a able school in England with good resources such as a large Learning Resource Centre or Library, 2 floors with wheelchair accessibility, a MUGA (Multi Use Game Area),a grass field with Cricket Nets, and a sports hall. The school day lasts from 8:30am to 3:00pm. It has school years 7-11, with the following subjects offered to study for GCSE: Optional: Spanish, French, Design and Technology, Art, Computer Science Geography, History, Graphics, Business Studies, Textiles, Product Design, Religious Studies, and Music. Compulsory by UK Law: English Language, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Physical Education, Mathematics, Religious Studies, and Modern Foreign Languages, and a catchment area of Henleaze, Westbury-on-Trym, parts of Horfield, Southmead and Henbury.

Pupil Recruitment[edit]

BFS was proposed to open with 150 Year 7 pupils, expanding by 150 pupils in subsequent years, to accommodate up to 750 pupils across 5 year-groups (Year 7 to Year 13) by 2016 once it was fully open.[16] When the school opened in September 2011 it had 80 Year 7 pupils, and the reduction in projected numbers was blamed on the uncertainty over site arrangements.[31][32] Pupil recruitment into Year 7 increased in subsequent years,[33][34][35] and the school was reported to be oversubscribed from September 2013 onwards.[36][37][38]


The Headmistress of nearby Henbury School, and Chair of the Bristol's Secondary Head Teachers' Association, Clare Bradford, said that if funding for BFS was approved by the DfE then she would seek a judicial review. She put this in a letter to Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, but was reported to have received an unequivocal response.[39] She said that BFS was being established only for middle-class parents, that it would damage existing schools, and that it wasn't needed because there were already surplus places.[40][41][42] However the Bristol Free School Trust said that it would reserve places for families in less affluent areas.[43] School census figures reported in 2015 indicated that the number of children at BFS on Free School Meals was higher than the national average.[44]

Bristol City Council Leader, Barbara Janke, and another Lib Dem cabinet member, expressed disappointment that BFS would not be offering places to Oasis School Westbury Senior Phase pupils after they originally said that they would.[45][46][47]

The President of the National Union of Teachers, Nina Franklin, who was a critic of Free School policy in general,[48] was quoted in media reports as criticizing the decision to fund BFS specifically, saying that other local schools would suffer as a result.[49]

When it was confirmed that BFS would be remaining at the Brentry site permanently, the school adjusted its admissions criteria, which was originally designed to cater for families living close to the St. Ursula's site.[50] It extended its main catchment area to include the school site in Burghill Road.[51] A local media report raised concerns that children living in Henbury and Southmead might not be able to access the school.[52]

In 2012, the Royal Society of Arts published a study which showed that the school, in common with many Free Schools, had been set up in an area with no shortage of school places, with 300 surplus secondary places within a few miles.[53] The Department for Education later released the impact assessment for the school, showing the context in which that decision was made.[54] Figures from Bristol City Council published in 2013 indicated that, notwithstanding the establishment of BFS, further Secondary provision would be required in the medium to long term.[55]


  1. ^ "Southmead Polling Districts" (PDF). Bristol Council Ward Finder. Retrieved 22 May 2013. 
  2. ^ Harrison, Angela (28 August 2011). "Free schools: 24 set to open in September". BBC News. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  3. ^ "BFS Funding Agreement". DfE Performance Tables. Department for Education. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Bristol Free School Trust Funding Agreement" (PDF). Department for Education. 31 August 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  5. ^ "School inspection report" (PDF). Ofsted. 19 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  6. ^ School, Primary (8 November 2010). "PLANS for parents to take charge of a school in north Bristol have moved a step closer after being given initial approval by the Education Secretary.". This is Bristol. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  7. ^ "UK | England | Bristol/Somerset | Public consulted on Bristol schools". BBC News. 19 May 2003. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Parents battle for new school - Article". TES. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "About Us". Bristol Free School. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  11. ^
  12. ^ WestburyOnTrym-People. "'Parent power' for new Bristol school". Westbury On Trym People. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Bristol Free School 'frustrated' with city council". BBC News. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  15. ^ "Bristol parents' free school plan clears first hurdle after being given approval". Bristol Evening Post. 8 November 2010. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  16. ^ a b "Final approval for Bristol Free School". BBC News. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  17. ^ "A secondary school on the St Ursulas site". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 5 September 2011. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Bristol Free School plans are given council approval". BBC News. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Application No. 11/01898/F : Vacated DEFRA Site Burghill Road Bristol BS10 6EZ" (PDF). Bristol City Council. 13 July 2011. Retrieved 22 February 2012. 
  21. ^ Becky Feather (27 August 2011). "New state secondary school serving Westbury-on-Trym, Henleaze and Stoke Bishop to open next month". Westbury On Trym People. Northcliffe Media. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  22. ^ "Southmead Polling Districts (map)" (PDF). Bristol City Council. 2010. Retrieved 7 September 2011. 
  23. ^ Nick Johnstone, Patrick Gower (29 July 2011). "Free school collides with property vehicle". Property Week. Archived from the original on 2011. 
  24. ^ "Bristol Free School to remain at Brentry site". BBC News. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 7 October 2011. 
  25. ^ "Free school wins backing for permanent site". Bristol Evening Post. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012. 
  26. ^ Nick Johnstone, Patrick Gower (29 July 2011). "Free school collides with property vehicle". Building News. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  27. ^ Allister Hayman (2 May 2012). "Bam picks up Bristol free school - Contractor wins £8m job for free school in Brentry". Building News. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  28. ^ "DfE figures reveal England's most expensive free schools". EducationInvestor. 1 July 2013. Retrieved 29 March 2014. 
  29. ^ Mark Wilding (25 April 2013). "Free schools teach a hard lesson". Building Design. Retrieved 7 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "The Free School Revolution". ITV News. 17 July 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  31. ^ "Don't dismiss free school's current site". Bristol Evening Post. 17 September 2011. Retrieved 18 September 2011. 
  32. ^ max 4000 characters (6 September 2011). "Free School Is A Dream Come True". This is Bristol. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  33. ^ "Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2013". Office of National Statistics. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  34. ^ "Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2014". Office of National Statistics. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  35. ^ "Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2015". Office of National Statistics. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  36. ^ "Biggest challenge for free schools is finding their place". Bristol Post. 17 Sep 2013. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  37. ^ Rath, Marc. "The most popular secondary schools in Bristol revealed as hundreds miss out on top choices". Bristol Post. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  38. ^ Pavid, Katie (11 March 2015). "More than six children for every place at Bristol's most oversubscribed schools". Bristol Post. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  39. ^ max 4000 characters (7 September 2011). "Mind your own school, angry Gove tells head". This is Bristol. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  40. ^ "Bristol headteacher threatens legal action on ‘free school’". Bristol24-7. 14 June 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  41. ^ "Bristol head threatens legal action against free school". BBC News. 13 June 2011. Retrieved 17 July 2011. 
  42. ^ Young, Toby (15 June 2011). "Left unleashes furious assault on free schools in attempt to force another U-turn – Telegraph Blogs". Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  43. ^ "BRISTOL'S first free school plans to admit up to 30 children a year from Southmead and Sea Mills, as well as taking youngsters from Westbury-on-Trym, Stoke Bishop, Sneyd Park and Henleaze.". This is Somerset. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  44. ^ "Ofsted Dashboard: Bristol Free School". Ofsted. Ofsted. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  45. ^ ThomOliver (24 May 2011). "Lib Dems Disappointed Over Free School’s Places Decision | Bristol Liberal Democrats". Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  46. ^ "BBC News - No places for 35 children at Bristol Free School". 24 May 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  47. ^ max 4000 characters (24 May 2011). "Free school setback for Oasis pupils". This is Bristol. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  48. ^ "Leader's attack on free schools". The Bristol Post. September 15, 2011. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  49. ^ "'Victory for parents' as first free school in Bristol is approved". Bristol Evening Post. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 28 August 2011. 
  50. ^ "Consultation". Bristol Free School. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  51. ^ "Admission Criteria 2011/2012". Bristol Free School. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  52. ^ "Free school wants most students to come from one postcode area". Bristol Evening Post. 21 January 2012. Retrieved 27 February 2012. 
  53. ^ Richard Garner (4 July 2012). "Gove's free school project is an 'unguided missile', says report". The Independent. Retrieved 11 July 2012. 
  54. ^ "Bristol Free School: Section 9 Academies Act 2010 impact assessment" (PDF). Department for Education. Retrieved 15 February 2014. 
  55. ^ "School Organisation Strategy 2013 - 2017" (PDF). Bristol Citizen Space. Bristol City Council. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 

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