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Parents and campaigners disappointed Pontypridd set to be left with no sixth forms

PARENTS and campaigners have said they are disappointed at the fact that Pontypridd is set to be left with no sixth forms.

A member of the Our Children First group has received a letter from the office of the Welsh minister for education stating that the Welsh Government has agreed to the closure of the sixth form at Cardinal Newman.

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s £37m 21st Century Schools proposals for Pontypridd, which are now set to be put back until 2024, include removal of the sixth form education from the Hawthorn High, Pontypridd High, and Cardinal Newman schools.

The Cardinal Newman proposals needed approval from Welsh Government which the letter said has now been given.

Those against the proposals have said this means that many young people can no longer walk, cycle, or have easy access to school-based A-level education as it will mean a long journey by bus to Beddau or to St. David’s in Cardiff.

The letter said that the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 Act requires Welsh ministers’ approval for proposals that end sixth form education at a school which continues to provide full-time education suitable to pupils of statutory school age.

It added:

“I can confirm that having considered all the relevant information for the purposes of consideration of the relevant factors set out in the code, the minister has agreed to approve Rhondda Cynon Taf’s proposal to remove the sixth form of Cardinal Newman RC School and has notified the local authority accordingly.”

Nerys Jones, mother of a child at Cardinal Newman from Abercynon said:

“I am so disappointed to hear that the decision to close the sixth form at Cardinal Newman school has been approved.

“As a family, our preferred option is for our daughter to continue her post-16 education within a faith school.

“To do this, she will have to travel from Abercynon to Penylan, Cardiff to St David’s Sixth Form College.

Taking away sixth forms from high-performing schools in the catchment area feels like a huge step backward.

“The Covid pandemic has already stolen precious school time from students, now we are going to limit their post-16 options further.

“How can anyone think this will benefit our young students? As a mother, I am extremely worried about the impact this will have on my daughter’s future.”

Angela Karadog, education researcher and Our Children First campaigner said:

“This is the final nail in the coffin for the Pontypridd valley which will have a university but no sixth form.

“Whilst school-based A-level education has been retained at some of the other new all-through 21st Century Schools in RCT, and whilst plenty of options for A-level study can be found in areas such as Aberdare, the Pontypridd valley is to be turned into an educational wasteland.

“This slash and burn policy will only deepen the decline in the numbers of young people continuing to study at sixth form in RCT, which has dropped by 14% between 2016/17 and 2019/20 according to the Welsh Government’s own figures.

“This time period actually mirrors the closure of sixth form facilities at Porth Community School and Ferndale Community School and infers that pupils previously serviced by these two schools have not sought to continue sixth form education in the ‘new’ schools which are further away. The Pontypridd valley is set to follow.”

Cathy Lisles, chair of Our Children First added:

“Having no sixth form in the area will recreate, as Shirley Williams once said a ‘brick ceiling’ for many young people, in what the council and Welsh Government claim to be a university town.

“Young people need to be able to access A-level education so that they can go on to obtain the jobs that require an A-level education but instead the young people of the Pontypridd valley are being cast aside.

“RCT Council describe their proposal as ‘exciting’. Frankly, it is not exciting, it’s a demolition.”

“The timing of this announcement, during the Senedd election campaign period will raise further questions.

“Yet, with 16-17-year-olds being given the vote for the first time next month young people can at least voice their opinion over the planned changes.

We urge local residents of all ages to contact their Senedd candidates and ask whether they support RCT Council’s planned demolition of A-level provision in the area.”

Welsh Government said it wouldn’t comment further as it’s bound by pre-election guidance.

 RCT Council has been contacted for comment.

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