Education & Family

Bristol infants to start school in old police station

St John's architects drawings
Image caption The new school design has incorporated some of the features of the old police station building

Some 75 reception pupils in Bristol will start their schooldays in a converted police station this week.

St John's Church of England primary has taken over the old Redland Police Station after a surge in pupil numbers.

Builders have worked all summer to convert custody cells and offices into playgrounds and classrooms in time for the new arrivals.

Bristol City Council says it will need to provide an extra 3,500 primary places within the next five years.

The school normally has space for only 45 children in each year but a rising birth rate in the area means that it has had to increase its intake.

The 30 extra reception pupils who will start at the school on Thursday come on top of 30 extra who joined last year.

Extra classrooms

Until now the school has managed to squeeze its increased intake into its existing accommodation but space has become tight.

The council began work on the old police station 18 months ago after central government provided the money to buy and convert it.

There will be eight new classrooms, increasing the school's total size by 210 places to 525.

Isobel Cattermole, Bristol's strategic director for children and young people, visited the building last week when teachers were getting their classrooms ready and described it as "fantastic".

"It has been very sympathetically done. The old features have been retained and remodelled into an area suitable for children. It's a really nice space, very light," Ms Cattermole told BBC News.

Local schools

Eventually the school will operate on two locations. Residents and parents have raised concerns about traffic congestion but the council hopes that new safe walking routes between the sites will mean fewer people travel by car.

Bristol's increased birth rate means St John's is among six of the city's schools with building projects due to be completed this month and among 13 who are to increase their intake.

Two schools have set up classrooms in temporary buildings, one in the car park of the old Imperial Tobacco headquarters, the other in a community centre.

The council has also appealed for academy sponsors to come forward to open three new primaries within two years in buildings which it has already earmarked to be refurbished as schools using central government money.

Ms Cattermole said that she was confident that Bristol had done a good job in its strategic planning and would be able to provide the 20% extra school places needed but she warned: "It's important that we focus on getting the places in the right area. Children need to be able to go to local schools."

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