‘Missing part of the jigsaw’ - Demolition job begins as 20-year battle for a Knowle secondary school nears end

Plansapproved for the construction of a school in 2019 have been hampered by delays

A 20-year battle to bring a secondary school back to Knowle West is soon to come to a close as demolition works begin as the former Merrywood School building is brought to the ground.

The school closed its doors in 2000 after 104 years of teaching children in south Bristol despite protests by parents and teaching staff. At the time, ward councillor, Gary Hopkins was ‘devastated’ as he and others embarked on a mission to bring secondary education back to Knowle West.

Plans were approved for the construction of a school in 2019 though multiple delays followed. The Oasis Community Trust will run the school, aptly named Oasis Academy Daventry Road, with contractors, Wates set to finish building work in 2024.

“I was involved with trying to prevent the closure of Merrywood School with a group alongside Clive Harry and we didn’t fancy our chances because there were so many forces against us,” Cllr Hopkins told Bristol World.

“We wanted to make sure the site carried on serving an educational purpose and it eventually became an opportunity centre, the Park Centre, with lots of usage. At some point it was used to educate children who had been excluded from other schools in the area - the building kept its ethos.”

The Park moved into a new purpose-built building adjacent to its former premises, the school building in February 2022. Cllr Hopkins added that ‘an unwelcome’ approach from Bristol Grammar School to build a free school on the site was made around a decade ago, in the early-to-mid teens. The plans ‘ignored the work the Park was doing’ and included a primary school, despite several being in the area.

“The area was undermined considerably by the lack of secondary school. Knowle has been a great success in recent years but we have had figures showing that families were moving away from Knowle once their children reached 10 or 11. The lack of a secondary school was the missing part of the jigsaw to making massive improvements for the area. Many people have dedicated years of hard work to get this school built so it’s great to see every step bringing us closer to its opening.”

Construction for Oasis Academy Daventry Road will be completed in September 2024 although the school will open in September of this year. Its first batch of students will attend temporary accommodation on the trust’s existing Oasis Academy John Williams site, in Hengrove.

A CGI image of how the new school may look on the former Park Centre and Merrywood School site.