Priorities for Bridgend schools shake-up revealed

(Pic: Wales Online)

Bridgend Council’s cabinet is shortly due to discuss the first round of reports into a major review into schools and post-16 education in the county (pdf – first covered at: Major school shake up in store for Bridgend’s schools).

The areas looked at by four separate task forces established by the council include data/analytics, how schools should be modelled, post-16 education (i.e. sixth forms), Welsh-medium education, school catchment areas and school building modernisation.

These four task forces have reported back. Some of the ideas emerging from the reports include:

    • A top-down, council-led reorganisation of schools (i.e. into a federation) has been ruled out. Instead, schools will be supported to develop their own approach to collaboration based on their own needs and wants.
    • There’s an aspiration for some schools to become “all-through” schools – meaning they’ll take pupils from ages 3-19 – in order to make moving between key stages easier.
    • Additional INSET/teacher training days will be required as the new National Curriculum is introduced across Wales (see also: Detention for Donaldson?).
    • There’s a “pressing need” for more school places in north east Bridgend, south east Bridgend and the Valley Gateway area (Sarn, Tondu) due to new housing developments. There’s also increased demand for special needs places.
    • No school buildings in the county are deemed to be the lowest quality, suggesting that the large number of new schools built in Bridgend over the last decade isn’t a trend that will continue in the future. School places will take priority over building condition.
    • The formula used to work out the amount of money the Welsh Government spends on new schools will change to exclude things like community uses and part-time nursery places. This means there could be pressure on local councils to put more of their own money towards new schools.
    • A report on the future of Welsh-medium education in Bridgend is due to be published later in 2017.
    • A report on the future of post-16 education in Bridgend (i.e. sixth forms) is due by 31st October 2017.
    • A review of secondary school catchment areas must take place by 2022.


What can we take from this?

The first thing is that, as said, there are unlikely to be as many completely new schools built in Bridgend in the future due to changes in the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools programme; the preference shifting towards fixed costs and a type of public-private finance (called a Mutual Investment Model).

If the council prioritises filling places instead of improving buildings that may mean providing more portacabins/temporary buildings and pushing through school mergers instead of building completely new schools.

Additionally, the prospect of 3-19 year-olds possibly attending the same school in future will likely cause anxiety to some parents. Other local authorities are already doing it, while something similar was proposed for Mynydd Cynffig Primary recently – shelved by the council.

The one to keep an eye on is the post-16 report, due in October. Penybont Sixth Form College has already been established at Pencoed Comprehensive (in collaboration with Bridgend College). This might hint at the future direction – but I’m only speculating there, we’ll have to wait for the report and its recommendations.

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