Report recommends Bridgend schools keep existing sixth-forms (for now)

(Title Image: Bryntirion Comprehensive School)

Another big topic up for discussion at next week’s joint scrutiny committee meeting is the ongoing plans to reform post-16/sixth-form education in Bridgend county (pdf).

Councillors are set to discuss the outcome of a consultation held last year, with more details emerging on the specific proposals.

As a reminder, there are three options on the table (more detail here):

  • Option One – School-based sixth-form mergers.
  • Option Two – A mix of stand-alone sixth-forms and the creation of BCBC-administered sixth-form centres.
  • Option Three – Retain all existing sixth-forms with greater collaboration between schools.

The response to the consultation has been significant (pdf), with more than 5,100 interactions one way or another. By and large, the most popular choice has been Option Three, with 85% of respondents either strongly agreeing or agreeing with keeping existing sixth-forms.

One of the main areas of concern is transport, with most post-16 learners on course to lose free home-school transport from September 2021 in order to save up to £775,000.

Emerging Themes

Option One: School-based sixth form mergers

  • A merged Brynteg and Bryntirion sixth-form centre could be developed at the current Heronsbridge School site on Ewenny Road to tie in with Bridgend College. Heronsbridge is set to move to a new-build site at Island Farm under draft proposals in the new Local Development Plan.
  • Porthcawl’s sixth-form is considered to be viable on a stand-alone basis and there are mixed feelings on merging or partnership with Cynffig.
  • If the sixth-forms of Maesteg, Pencoed and Coleg y Dderwen merged, Coleg y Dderwen is considered to be the best location for a dedicated sixth-form centre.

Option Two: A mix of stand-alone sixth-forms and the creation of BCBC-administered sixth-form centres

Opposition to this idea was more heavily concentrated within Bryntirion and Coleg y Dderwen, but Pencoed students and Bridgend College were more positive. A sixth-form centre would be developed at Bridgend College’s Pencoed Campus, possibly as part of the new STEAM building development.

Option Three: Retain all existing sixth-forms with greater collaboration

As mentioned this was the most popular option, but there are a number of challenges including: post-16 student transport, arranging a joint prospectus, making difficult choices on which courses can be offered at which school (based on available school budgets) and delivering more content online or through distance learning.

The New Recommendations

  • Option Three (retaining existing sixth-forms with greater collaboration) should be taken forward as the preferred short-to-medium term option.
  • Any decisions on the future of post-16 education should be tied to changes in home-school transport policy for post-16 learners and the impact of the 2033 Local Development Plan.
  • A county-wide strategy for blended learning (online and in-class) should be developed based on experiences during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

Longer-term:

  • Further work should take place on developing a dedicated sixth-form centre at Bridgend College’s Pencoed Campus.
  • Further work should also take place on potentially developing Coleg y Dderwen as a sixth-form centre serving the northern half of the county.
  • If the Heronsbridge School site becomes available in the future, further consideration should be given to a joint Brynteg-Bryntirion sixth-form centre of excellence at the site.

Depending on what the two committees decide, final recommendations are set to be presented to the Cabinet at a later date.

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