Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is considering a groundbreaking £285m overhaul of education and training provision that, if approved, will be the biggest project of its kind the authority has delivered.
Responding to a new Welsh Assembly Government law that ensures young people have access to the full range of education, skills and training they need to become the workforce of the future, RCT has begun a massive piece of work and is considering four options for the future.
Option 1 – do nothing. Continue with the existing arrangements of nineteen 11-18 secondary schools and five 14-19 consortia with the College;
Option 2 - The rationalisation of existing sixth forms, with a limited number of schools having sixth forms, and the remaining secondary schools becoming 11-16 or 3-16 schools wherever possible. The College would continue to provide the vocational provision;
Option 3 – Two separate bilingual centres would be created in each former district area, one focusing on academic provision and one focusing on vocational provision. All the secondary schools would be 11-16 schools or 3-16 wherever possible.
Option 4 – a bilingual tertiary provision, replacing existing sixth forms and the full time vocational provision at the College, located on one site in each of the three former districts. All the secondary schools would be 11-16 schools or 3-16 wherever possible.
Options 3 and 4 have been indicated as the preferred options and are set to be confirmed when Cabinet discusses the exciting scheme on November 18.
If approved, preferred plans could see all post-16 provision delivered in partnership with Coleg Morgannwg via three tertiary education centres offering the innovative, varied curriculum that young learners need, from A Levels and GCSEs to social care, childcare and business management qualifications.
However, such a radical change in service delivery will, inevitably, lead to a review and rationalisation of current secondary education and training in RCT, to make best use of the resources and teaching excellence the authority boasts.
The plans, to be discussed by Cabinet this month are the Council’s response to the far-reaching Welsh Assembly Government Learning and Skills Measure, which becomes law next year.
The measure aims to support and inspire young learners by offering them a choice of innovative, relevant curriculum choices that they can access to meet their career plans and ambitions.
It sets a number of important targets, including the minimum number of curriculum choices a young learner can choose from at Key Stage Four (GCSE and equivalent) and Key Stage Five (A Level and equivalent) and the right they have to choose from them.
Across Rhondda Cynon Taf, despite the best efforts of the schools, the academic attainment of many young people is not as good as that in other parts of South Wales.
These vital targets are welcomed and supported across Rhondda Cynon Taf but it is recognised that the current secondary education provision cannot support such needs and, as a result, a dramatic change is needed.
This has led to the consideration of four options for the future delivery of post-16 education across RCT. The preferred two are to be decided by Cabinet and will be investigated further by officers. Final business cases outlining the two preferred options will be presented to the Welsh Assembly Government in the new year, which will make the final decision on how to proceed and also funding.
Cllr Eudine Hanagan, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, said: “We are committed to providing the accommodation, environment and curriculum our young learners need to succeed in the future.
“They are the workers, employers and parents of the future and, as such, we must support them so they can thrive and be successful, no matter where they choose to work or in what field.
“Too many young people are currently leaving school with little or no qualifications, generating concerns about unemployment and the social, economic, health and wellbeing issues economic inactivity can cause.
As well as improving the future of individuals, the educational framework set out by the new law will also assist in the wider regeneration of RCT, as it strives to create the skilled, relevant workforce that will attract new businesses, employers and investment into the county borough.
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