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‘Prestatyn High School shouldn’t be used as a political football’ says Council leader

AT a cabinet meeting today (July 27), councillors discussed a report reassessing the order of priority of Denbighshire schools, in terms of grant funding for building repairs and renovations.

During the debate the Council leader, Cllr Jason McLellan, said that Prestatyn High School “shouldn’t be used as a political football”.

An initial report was completed five years ago, scheduling works at Denbighshire schools including Prestatyn High School.

The report graded the schools most in need of renovation and repairs.

But at the end of last year, former Prestatyn councillor Paul Penlington put forward a motion proposing that Welsh Government funding was targeted to renovate or rebuild Prestatyn High School.

The former councillor said the school was leaking, crumbling, had poor disability access, and was not benefiting from the same level of investment as other schools in Denbighshire.

Former lead member for education and current Ruthin councillor Huw Hilditch-Roberts added an amendment to that motion, proposing a reassessment of the priority list of schools.

That report has now been completed and concluded that the initial schedule of work relying on Welsh Government funding was fair, including work to be carried out at Prestatyn High School.

Council officer Geraint Davies explained.

“We accept that there are a large number of schools that require investment,” he said.

“We have got 55 school buildings, varying in age from being relatively young to being older in building terms.

“There are a number that require a degree of investment; however, the funding we have is what we have. Obviously we need to prioritise that funding where the need is greater. So we have worked with the buildings department and with the engineers and surveyors who have relooked at the prioritisation for the spending of the sustainable communities grant.

“And as part of the work undertaken at the request of the council, it was to make sure that the assessments were accurate and a true reflection of the education estate, and the outcome of that piece of work was that the prioritisation was correct, and that the schools earmarked for band B investment were the ones with the highest need.”

Lead member for education Cllr Gill German said she had visited Prestatyn High School.

“I have children who attend Prestatyn High. I’m also a former pupil. So this is a matter dear to my heart,” she said.

“So as the Prestatyn member, I have had the pleasure of visiting Prestatyn High School recently, along with Cllr Jason McLellan, who is also a Prestatyn member. We had a tour of the school buildings and an honest discussion with the headteacher and the chair of governors regarding issues relating to this motion.

“There have been building improvements made in recent years, including the science labs and the toilet blocks. It is brilliant to see those; however, there are agreed works that remain outstanding and immediate priorities still to be addressed within the five-year programme of investment developed with school and local members in 2017.”

She added:

“I do feel it is important at this point to point out that, particularly after recent negative press regarding the school, that although buildings are obviously important, a building does not make a school. Prestatyn High School is a school at the heart of its community. That said, physical environment does matter, and it ensures positive learning experiences. It provides equal access, and it helps with positive self-image and aspiration.”

“I want the staff, governors, pupils, and parents of Prestatyn High School to know that I get it. A lot of investment can be seen in the other secondary schools in Denbighshire’s coastal area, and it’s only natural to want to see similar facilities at Prestatyn High School because they are their nearest neighbours. I will work closely with officers and the school towards achieving improvements and offer my assurance today this will be staying firmly on my radar during my term, and I will be looking at it closely, and I won’t be letting it go.”

Cllr Huw Hilditch Roberts, the former cabinet member for education, said he was glad the previous schedule of works had been deemed to be fair.

“I can make the same case (about investment being needed) for Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin,” he said.

“There are rooms with damp. There are roofs falling in. This is in a number of our schools, but what this revisit of this piece of work does is back up the process we have as a fair and a true process that actually we have the priorities right.

“We have double checked it after five years, and it is still right. I’m glad this has come back. I’m glad the process has come to the conclusion it has because that what I defended at the time. I think we can have confidence in our processes.”

Leader Cllr Jason McLellan added:

“To extend from that, Huw, we don’t want to be using this as a political football, which perhaps may have been done in the past.”

The report said £1.83m had been spent on Prestatyn High School between 2014-18, including work to toilet refurbishments, changing rooms, lighting and heating upgrades, major roof work, and new windows.

The report stated a further £500K was spent at the school between 2018-21 on science blocks, mobile classrooms, and roof work.

According to the report, work currently taking place includes work to a walkway access corridor and car park.

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