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Our response to the Pontypridd schools consultation

2019 Ionawr 28 10:00 AM

We were strongly opposed to the creation of through schools in the Rhondda when that was consulted upon and later introduced despite strong protest from stakeholders. Since then we have seen nothing that changes our view and have still yet to see any real evidence that supports the educational case for such schools. The current consultation on reorganisation of schools in Pontypridd appears to be merely a rehash of the case put forward previously with no additional information to reinforce the position being put forward.

It is therefore also the case that much of our response will be along the same lines as that which we made then, albeit with some additional reinforcement because of issues which have arisen in the Rhondda.

The proposal to amalgamate a Primary School with Mountain Ash Comprehensive was turned down by the Cabinet in September 2013. At the time Cllr Andrew Morgan was quoted as saying

"My biggest concern was the location and journey to the secondary school. It's safe for savvy teens to negotiate the roads, but the A4059 is a very busy road for parents with one, two or maybe more little ones."

These concerns were echoed by parents in the Tonypandy and Porth catchment areas but were dismissed out of hand. We can only hope that there will be yet another change of opinion this time and Cllr Morgan and the rest of his cabinet will realise that this applies equally here.

The new 3 - 16 school in Tonypandy in particular has caused chaos on roads in the area with traffic jams, the surrounding streets being blocked by cars at the beginning and end of the day, and even reports of parents fighting over parking spaces. As we said time and time again parents take infant school pupils to the door, and with the increasing distances they have to travel even more will do that by car.

The changes made in the Rhondda and those proposed here are leading to a huge degree of inequality at several levels, both within the schools and catchment areas affected and across RCT as a whole.

One of the arguments put forward in the Rhondda - and ignored - was that the pupils in those Primary schools which are amalgamating with Secondaries would benefit from the increased facilities there. Yet other feeder schools - if there are such benefits to be had - will surely be losing out. Surely the effect on those pupils not part of the through school would be greater as they would be the new faces in a school where they would be joining pupils who have been there for seven or eight years and who already feel part of that school.

You have introduced a two tier system amongst Secondary schools in RCT. As not only us but numerous former teachers and head teachers pointed out during the Rhondda consultation whilst there are many very good Secondary school teachers who are content to teach only up to GCSE level then there are also those, particularly those with ambition to progress further, who also want to be able to teach A level. Our concerns were dismissed when we said that schools without sixth forms would lose some highly skilled staff yet this has proven to be the case.

Whilst appreciating the difficulties that have been encountered in providing sixth form education and the financial difficulties including transport costs we opposed the removal of sixth forms from Secondary schools when it was proposed in 2009 and certainly do not agree with their removal now.

All the arguments in favour of keeping sixth forms in schools were well aired when the Council first tried to remove them in 2009. Having a sixth form enriches the life of a school and enables younger pupils to learn a great deal from the older ones. It also gives the opportunity for those sixth form students to be mentors and guides for younger children and adds to their own experience.

Many of our students from disadvantaged areas in particular, and especially those who are lacking in confidence will not travel to another school to study A levels. Colleges are far too money driven and will not put on courses unless the number of students enrolled on them makes it financially worthwhile.

We have already seen cuts in the curriculum at Rhondda schools - drama removed form Tonypandy for instance - the same pattern will no doubt be followed in Pontypridd.

As for pupils at Cardinal Newman then how can it be fair that they will be expected to move out of the Local Authority area if they wish to continue their education within a faith school?

The case for through schools has still, in our opinion, not been satisfactorily made. Rhondda school pupils were the guinea pigs and now you want to push this through in the Pontypridd area with no evidence of any benefits.

These plans are being driven by an officer who when he came here as Education Director was to get rid of sixth forms in schools altogether and who now as Chief Executive seems determined to push it through on a piecemeal basis. Where were these proposals in the manifesto of the ruling group?

There seems to be no plan at all for Welsh medium education in the long term, with changes seemingly being tacked on to other larger reorganisations almost as an afterthought - we have this building available because we have moved this lot out, so let's put in this batch of Welsh medium pupils.

Where is the overall plan for education across RCT? Catchment areas are being changed in dribs and drabs. You cannot simply keep shifting the problem of excess or insufficient places around There has to be a master plan for the whole area and that should be made very clear to the public.

The catchment area for Bryncelynnog was changed for those in Llantrisant, allegedly because of excess places there. Now you want to bulk up their sixth form and then alter the number of pupils lower down the school by changing the catchment are in Tonteg and sending those pupils to Hawthorn, regardless of any travel difficulties. As a result of this you then propose to have Coedpenmaen and Maesycoed pupils go to Pontypridd High. What happens when that school is full? Do we start the whole circular process over again?