May 14, 2021

Newyddion Cymru Ar-Lein : Wales News Online

Newyddion Lleol a Chenedlaethol Cymru – Local and National News for Wales

A £37m overhaul of education in Pontypridd is set to be put back until 2024.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has pushed back the implementation date of its 21st Century Schools programme for the town by two years to September 2024.

The plans include two new 3-16 “super schools” on the sites of Pontypridd High School and Hawthorn High School and a new Welsh-medium school where Heol y Celyn Primary School currently is in Rhydyfelin.

They also involve the closure of Pontypridd High, Hawthorn High, Hawthorn Primary, Cilfynydd Primary, Ysgol Pont Sion Norton and Heol y Celyn Primary and the closure of sixth forms at Pontypridd High, Hawthorn High and Cardinal Newman Catholic Comprehensive.

There are plans for new post-16 places to be provided at Bryncelynnog Comprehensive in Beddau and Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw with the Catholic option being St David’s College in Cardiff.

The council’s aim is for the new “super schools” to be up and running by September 2022, with funding including a 65% contribution from Welsh Government.

A judicial review ruled in July last year that Rhondda Cynon Taf had breached The School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 by failing to refer to the Welsh Government proposals to close a sixth form, whether the remainder of the school was to stay open or not.

The proposal to close the Cardinal Newman sixth form had already gone before the minister for approval, but the proposals for Pontypridd High School and Hawthorn High School had not.

But the council’s appeal against the decision was successful and now the proposals, which were due to be put in place by September 2022, will not happen until 2024.

The Our Children First group which has campaigned against the proposals welcomed the delay and said it would give them time to collect evidence as to the merits and success of the all-through schools approach as used in England, other counties in Wales and in other areas of RCT.

They also said that they will continue to campaign for improvements to Welsh-medium primary school provision within the communities of Ynysybwl, Glyncoch, Coed y Cwm, Trallwn and Cilfynydd to prevent these children from being lost in terms of the Welsh language.

On behalf of Our Children First and the Rhieni’n Pontio’r Gymraeg groups Lowri Chinnock-Davies said that it is hoped that RCT will use the delay to consult with the parents and communities of the affected areas and fully consider the impact of removing Welsh language education from these local communities instead of planning to build a new school outside of the catchment area communities because they are freeing up a site especially when they could consider local sites for development.

Our Children First said it also plans to consult residents and young people on how far they would wish to travel for primary, secondary and sixth form education, their views on all-through schools and the types of sixth form education that should be available.

Chair of Our Children First, Cathy Lisles said:

“Currently, we are encouraging young people of 16+ to make their feelings known when they vote in the Senedd elections next month.

“For the first time, young people aged 16 plus will have a vote in the Senedd
election in May 2021 and the opportunity to select who represents their
interests.

“If they are unhappy with the sixth form choices they have been
left with, and on behalf of their younger brothers and sisters, this would
be something to ask the candidates about who are seeking to win their
vote.”

“A week is a long time in politics, and three years is a very long time. This
delayed implementation will also give Our Children First the opportunity
to bring the issue of access to education across the valley to the
attention of the electorate in the 2022 county council elections.

Cathy Lisles also stated:

“Investment in educational facilities is greatly needed across the area, but it has to be in the right places and for the right reasons.

“Our Children First have always said that a bad plan to invest money is still a bad plan.

“The current proposals are, and always will be a bad plan for the
Pontypridd valley.”

A spokesman for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said:

“The council can confirm its exciting 21st Century Schools projects for the greater Pontypridd area now have a revised completion date due to an unavoidable delay, as a result of time lost due to a legal challenge.

“The council’s cabinet initially approved the projects in July 2019, to be delivered for the 2022/23 academic year. However, substantial progress towards this time scale was unable to be made while legal proceedings were active.

“The Court of Appeal found in the council’s favour in December 2020 – 17 months after the cabinet had initially approved the projects.

“The council is therefore looking forward to delivering the quality £38m learning environments, and the enhanced educational opportunities they will bring for learners, by a revised completion date of September 2024.”

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