More details of proposed sixth form shake-up revealed ahead of consultation

(Title Image: Bryntirion Comprehensive Schools)

Tomorrow, a Bridgend Council scrutiny committee will discuss a number of papers which go into more detail on proposed reforms to post-16 education (namely sixth forms) in Bridgend county (pdf).

A fresh public consultation on the remaining three options is set to open in November – subject to Cabinet approval.

If they thought the decision on sports facility fees was unpopular….

Some Background

Over the last two years or so, Bridgend Council has been undertaking a review of post-16 education as part of a wider strategic review of schools in the county.

Every secondary school in the county currently has a sixth form, though some post-16 students take courses at Bridgend College or courses shared between different schools known as “twilight options” which hold classes after normal school hours.

BCBC believe that to ensure high standards, a wide curriculum offer, the best use of teachers and financial viability, sixth forms need to have a minimum of 250 students on-roll. In 2018, only one school – Brynteg – exceeded this figure with Porthcawl coming very close to it.

Demand for secondary school places is heavily dependent on the outcome of the next Local Development Plan, which could see (based on mooted housing developments) projected pupil demand exceed or meet supply at Maesteg, Pencoed, Bryntirion, Brynteg and Cynffig schools.

Faith-based and Welsh-medium post-16 education

Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Llangynwyd is expected to maintain a sixth form of just over 100 students in size until 2027– well below the desired minimum. Talks are ongoing with Rhondda Cynon Taf council to formalise a post-16 Welsh-medium partnership with Ysgol Gyfun Llanhari, the details of which are unclear as things stand.

It’s also expected that Archbishop McGrath RC High in Brackla will continue to offer faith-based sixth form education (while it’s a Catholic school, it accepts students from the county’s Church in Wales schools too) – but it could be affected as part of one of the options below.

The Options in Detail

In April this year, six options were whittled down to three. The report goes into more detail on the specific plans for each option.

Option One: School-based sixth form mergers

Several possible changes are listed in the report:

  • A merged (or federated) Brynteg and Bryntirion sixth form with a post-16 centre of excellence established at Brynteg (Bryntirion becomes an 11-16-year-old school). This option could include a partnership with Archbishop McGrath RC High and Bridgend College.
  • A merger of Porthcawl and Cynffig sixth forms (Cynffig becomes an 11-16 school).
  • A merger of Coleg y Dderwen, Pencoed and Cynffig sixth forms at Cynffig (Pencoed and Coleg y Dderwen become 11-16 schools).
  • A merger of Maesteg and Coleg y Dderwen sixth forms at Maesteg (Coleg y Dderwen becomes an 11-16 school).
  • Two sixth form centres established at Maesteg and Pencoed, with post-16 students from Cynffig and Coleg y Dderwen choosing which sixth form centre to attend (Cynffig and Coleg y Dderwen become 11-16 schools).

Option Two: A mix of stand-alone sixth forms and mergers to create one or more Bridgend College-administered sixth form centres

Bridgend College has discussed two proposals for a sixth form college with BCBC. One would see a new-build in Bridgend town centre (location undetermined), the second is an expansion of Penybont Sixth Form College at Pencoed Comprehensive.

Under this option, Brynteg could still house a merged sixth form with Bryntirion, while it’s expected that Cynffig and Coleg y Dderwen would become 11-16 schools. You would, therefore, assume Porthcawl and Maesteg would retain their respective sixth forms too.

Option Three: Retain sixth forms at all schools alongside greater collaboration

Retaining sixth forms is said to be “essential” to some communities. It maintains a link between sixth formers and the rest of a school, with sixth formers often seen as setting an example to younger pupils. Despite being small in size, some sixth forms produce strong academic results.

Schools would be expected to commit to addressing weaknesses – so this option wouldn’t be “the status quo”.

Some suggested reforms include:

  • Moving staff between schools and common timetable blocks.
  • Merging student groups in Year 13 while maintaining separate Year 12s.
  • A mix of in-class teaching and online/distance learning.
  • Schools take on responsibility for funding post-16 transport (post-16 home-school transport subsidies are to be cut by Bridgend Council).
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