School shake-up planned for Garw valley

(Pic: Wales Online)

Bridgend Council’s cabinet recently considered a proposal (doc) to replace two English medium primaries in the Garw valley and address Welsh-medium demand across the central and north eastern parts of Bridgend county.

The plans are to build two new schools on the current site of Betws Primary:

  • A merged English-medium primary (Betws + Tynyrheol) – to be built by September 2016.
  • A 255 (210+45 nursery) capacity Welsh-medium primary to replace Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Cwm Garw – to be built by September 2017.

The Reasoning

Relocating Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Cwm Garw

YGG Cwm Garw, based in Pontycymer, is an old Victorian building located on a hillside within narrow terraced streets. It’s judged to be in a “poor condition”, with a backlog of £700,000 in repairs and maintainence.

Its capacity is 223 pupils, but there’s currently a surplus of places at both Welsh-medium primaries serving the northern half of Bridgend county (YGG Cwm Garw and YGG Cynwyd Sant in Maesteg). Although demand is expected to grow at both schools between 2013 and 2021, YGG Cynwyd Sant has a more managable surplus of 7, while YGG Cwm Garw would still have a surplus of 49 places (currently 84).

Meanwhile, the two Welsh-medium primaries serving the south of Bridgend county (YGG Bro Ogwr in Brackla and YGG Y Ferch o’r Sgêr in North Cornelly) are oversubscribed, with mobile classrooms currently being added to cater for the extra demand. The goal of this proposal is to reduce pressure on YGG Bro Ogwr in particular, while it’s said BCBC are currently exploring separate options for the west of the county.

YGG Cwm Garw is towards the top of the Garw valley, so moving it to a more central location like Betws could help serve demand in the Sarn/Bryncethin/Tondu area, where many children might currently attend YGG Bro Ogwr as it’s easier to get to. I suggested in my look at the 2011 Census that the central part of Bridgend county could be one area where you would expect demand for Welsh-medium education to increase or is currently poorly served.

The new school would be larger, with 210 pupil places, plus 45 full-time equivalent nursery places. It would initially be single-form entry but is said would be “flexible enough to meet any increase in demand for Welsh-medium places in the area”.

Merging Betws & Tynyrheol Primary Schools

The junior part of Betws Primary was destroyed by a serious fire in June 2012, and has been moved to temporary buildings, so a new build school for the area has been on the cards for a while and perhaps BCBC have decided to kill two birds with one stone.

The school is one of these flatrooved 1960s monstrosities and, like YGG Cwm Garw, the condition – even of the parts not destroyed by fire – is said to be poor, with a £250,000 backlog in repairs and maintenance. There are no capacity issues, with the number of surplus places expected to fall from 49 in 2013 to just 4 in 2021.

Tynyrheol Primary, which serves nearby Llangeinor, will be oversubscribed by 2021. It’s a small school, located on the main Garw Valley road, with only 69 pupils on roll in September 2013. The current headteacher is retiring next year, so BCBC have decided that the time’s right for a change.

The plans are for Betws and Tynyrheol schools to merge as a single, split-site school (sharing a head teacher) in September 2014, then move to a new build school at the Betws site in September 2016. The new school would presumably have a capacity of around 320.

Sharing sites between English and Welsh medium primaries isn’t that unusual in Bridgend either, YGG Y Ferch o’r Sgêr shares a site with Cornelli Primary for example.