Cabinet will discuss proposals to invest £37.4m in new school facilities across the Pontypridd area by 2022 – including the creation of two new 3-16 schools, a new state-of-the-art Welsh medium primary school, and a new sixth form Centre of Excellence.
An Officer report to the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, October 3, sets out new proposals for the latest wave of multi-million pound joint investment by the Council, through #RCTinvest, and the Welsh Government’s 21stCentury Schools Programme.
The wider Taf area has recently seen significant investment including a £40m brand new 11-18 school at Tonyrefail, a £24.1m investment at Y Pant Comprehensive, Pontyclun, the significant expansion of Llwyncrwn Primary in Beddau, and the development of the 3-19 school for Ysgol Llanhari..
The new proposals, if agreed, would be delivered in 2022. They include:
- A new ‘all-through’ 3-16 school in Pontypridd, investing £4.7m in new facilities at the current Pontypridd High School site.
- A new ‘all-through’ 3-16 school in Hawthorn, investing £12m in new facilities at the current Hawthorn High and Hawthorn Primary sites.
- A new £10.7m school to improve and increase Welsh medium primary provision.
- Post-16 Centres of Excellence at Bryncelynnog Comprehensive in Beddau and Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw – investing £10m in the new sixth form provision at Bryncelynnog.
To facilitate these proposals, the following changes would be required:
- The closure of Pontypridd High School and Cilfynydd Primary School, with pupils transferring to the new 3-16 school at Pontypridd High.
- The closure of Hawthorn High School, Hawthorn Primary and Heol-y-Celyn Primary School, with pupils transferring to the new 3-16 school at the Hawthorn High and Hawthorn Primary sites. Designated ALN classes will also transfer to the new school.
- The closure of YGG Pont Sion Norton with the pupils transferring to a new school, with brand new buildings, on the current Heol-y-Celyn Primary site. Current Welsh Medium pupils at Heol-y-Celyn will transfer to the new Welsh Medium school, and English Medium pupils will transfer to the new 3-16 school in Hawthorn.
- The closure of sixth forms at Hawthorn High, Pontypridd High and Cardinal Newman RC Comprehensive, with pupils having the choice to transfer to the new Sixth Form Centre at Bryncelynnog or to Coleg Y Cymoedd, Nantgarw. Pupils who opt for a Roman Catholic education will receive Home to School Transport to St David’s College in Cardiff.
Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “Cabinet Members will discuss major proposals to invest £37.4m in Pontypridd, to deliver brand new 21st Century Schools facilities for our young pupils, and deliver a more efficient and effective post-16 provision across the area – to be delivered by 2022.
“It follows on from new proposals to further invest £23.9m in education in the Cynon Valley by 2022, and the delivery of £85m investment across Rhondda and Tonyrefail for the 2018/19 academic year.
"Fantastic ‘all-through’ schools with brilliant facilities opened in Tonypandy, Tonyrefail and Porth this September, which have been very well received by parents, staff and pupils.
“The proposals for new 3-16 schools on the current Pontypridd High and Hawthorn High school sites will aim to replicate this recent success. If agreed, the investment would again capitalise on joint funding by #RCTinvest and Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools Programme, to deliver first-class learning environments and opportunities for our pupils.
"We are also proposing to invest £10.7m funding to increase Welsh Medium primary provision building in a brand new school for the area currently served by YGG Pont Sion Norton and Heol Y Celyn Primary School.
“If agreed, the proposals relating to sixth forms would see a Centre of Excellence created in Beddau – where £10m investment is proposed. The proposals seek to solve a number of existing problems with the current post-16 setup – including very small classes, under-sized sixth forms which, financially impact on education at Key Stage 3 and 4, and limited subject choices for students.
“As a Council, we want to ensure that our young people have access to the very best learning opportunities within modern state-of-the-art facilities. We have demonstrated what we can achieve and deliver for young people across Rhondda Cynon Taf, through our 21st Century Schools Investment Programme, and these proposals seek to deliver same enhancement for Pontypridd.”
The report recommends Cabinet Members give formal approval to commence consultation on these specific proposals – which have been put forward to solve a number of problems with the current provision.
The proposals in respect of sixth forms have been brought forward to satisfy the criteria of the Learning and Skills Measure 2009 – to offer a good learning experience for pupils. There is currently unnecessary duplication of post-16 provision across schools and colleges, and learners’ choices are restricted.
The report to be considered by Cabinet highlights that for sixth form to be viable, it should have at least 250 students. In January 2018, sixth forms at Pontypridd and Hawthorn had 245 pupils combined – while Bryncelynnog had 147 and Cardinal Newman 80. In 2017, 44 post-16 courses were delivered with fewer than five pupils on each.
Meanwhile, the number of secondary school surplus places in the Greater Pontypridd area is projected to be more than 775 in 2023, which equates to the same numbers of pupils currently at Hawthorn High School. Effectively, by 2023, the Council will be funding one too many secondary schools in the area.
Also Cardinal Newman, Hawthorn High and Pontypridd High have combined financial deficits exceeding £1.6m. The majority of this deficit is a direct result of the schools’ decision to maintain small, expensive sixth forms.
The new 3-16 schools, if agreed, will also include a review of the safe routes to each school, and potential highways investment in local communities. The Council would invest in improvements to walkways, road crossings and, if required, speed management measures. Safer routes schemes were recently delivered in Porth, Tonyrefail, Tonypandy, Treorchy and Cwmaman – to complement the significant 21st Century Schools funding for September 2018.
Posted on Tuesday 25th September 2018