Agenda item

School Organisation Plan Proposals

(Papers to follow)


To enable Members to undertaken pre-decision scrutiny in relation to:


·         Cathays High School

·         YsgolMynydd Bychan


The Chairperson welcomed Councillor Sarah Merry (Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Education, Employment and Skills), Michele Duddridge-Friedl (Operational manager, Planning & Provision); and Richard Portas (Programme Director, School’s Organisation Planning) to the meeting.


The Chairperson also welcomed Melanie Godfrey to her first meeting of the Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee as Director of Education and Lifelong Learning.  The Director outlined the real need for there to be a cultural shift away from what is high stakes accountability.  As a Committee it will mean that part of the work in terms of scrutiny will be to monitor education and drive forward improvements. 


Cathays High School


This item provided Members with the opportunity to carry out pre-decision scrutiny of the proposals and the recommendation to Cabinet to hold a public consultation on the proposals for the expansion and redevelopment of Cathays High School in line with Band B 21st Century Schools priority schemes.


Councillor Merry made a statement in which she referred to the recommendation to expand Cathays High School to 8 forms of entry and to replace the school with new building accommodation on the Maindy Centre site adjacent to Crown Way and North Road. There are also plans to expand the SRB from 16 – 50 spaces and upgrade community facilities at the existing site.


Richard Portas advised that the lease with GLL would be reworked on the Maindy site.  There is also a MIM proposal to design and build the school with Meridiam Investments.


Members were invited to comment, seek clarification, or raise questions on the information received. Those discussions are summarised as follows:




Members discussed the sustainability of expansion of Cathays High School, the travel implications and the potential increase in demand for secondary Welsh Medium Education.    Members were advised that a review has been conducted; there is a clear case that the school will be increased to the right size.  Cathays is the pressure valve for the city and provides flexibility.  Working with developers to north and west of the city and that is expected to support the case for the school.  There will be significant demand. Travel in to the city is a one route option. A school in that location is required, it provides future proofing both in the short term and long term.


In terms of travel, Active Travel is critical; there will be reduction of travel to Heath Park – the sporting facilities will be onsite and local. Catchment areas will have to be considered in due course, but provision needs to be in place.


A Welsh education strategic plan will be brought forward next year.  There is growing pressure and there are plans in place for temporary provision where required at this time.



Members asked for clarification as to what the envelope for the MIM model does not cover, it is limited to the school estate itself however the project will impact on the cycle track.  Members were advised that the cycle track is not unfunded, it will be considered as part of the overall programme.  MIM only covers certain elements and the other elements are funded like any other project.  Budgets change as time goes on, for example Fitzalan and will be need to be updated. Any lead in costs will be met from the capital programme, including the cycle track which will be in the International Sports Village, it will not compromise any other Band B projects. 


Members went on to express concern about the cycle track being moved bearing in mind its current location; is there certainty of investment; will it be like for like, i.e. an open air track; and is there a commitment that it will be in place before the current facility is lost.  Members were advised that the relocation of the cycle track is seen as an exciting opportunity; there is to be a Cabinet Paper going forward in the new year in relation to the International Sports Village.  There is an area allocated for the track.  The benefit will be that it will link in with the other sports in the area.  The minimum commitment is like for like, but there will be additional benefit as well.  It was noted that the track will be in place before the school.



Members asked for outline plans of the site, but were advised that as yet there are no designs; still looking at due diligence. 



Members asked why Cathays High School was being prioritised as opposed to others schools where demand for places is high.  It was explained that there are a number of considerations; the condition of the buildings; catchment areas; and demand.  In a programme of this scale resources have to be prioritised.  Cathays is not the next school in line, there is a huge scheme in the Fairwater area at the present time.  Other schools were prioritised before Cathays.


Members asked for details of schools conditions in line with the projections to enable the Committee to consider the reasons for making Cathays a priority project over other schools.  Members were advised that at the start of the Band B project a large prioritisation exercise was carried out.  That process was not just condition related, it also included sufficiency of places and other key criteria.  Other schools were considered at that time, and the decision was made to move forward with the current programme.  Further considerations may need to be addressed in the future. 



Members expressed concern about the sufficiency and sustainability of SRB and ALN provision.  There is to be an increase from 16 places to 50. Bearing in mind how quickly diagnoses are being made is that increase sufficient and sustainable.   Members noted that currently there is a detailed assessment ongoing to consider the demand and the need to ensure that we can model the changes that are happening.  Currently the various options are being mapped and the implications associated with that.  SRB’s are a good way of integrating children in to mainstream education.  It is something that has to be built on.  It is not expected to meet all the need within the City but work will continue to achieve that.



Members requested plans for the consultation process to outline the timings and also the nature of the stakeholder engagement planned as part of that process.  Members were advised that the consultation will be coming forward in February.  It is a process that has been developed over the years.  Engagement at the present time is more difficult and the best way of communicating and integrating with the community is still being considered. Lessons have been learned from the Fitzalan planning consultation, they have to be considered. There are a whole host of options from Social Media through to more formal means.  However, more detail is required before it can be presented.



Members referred to the suggestion that Section 106 money was being earmarked; what that might amount to in cash terms; and when it would be available.  Members were advised that there is some for the area, it is for playground projects and not for the main scheme. 



Members queried the reference to community facilities being upgraded and whether the plans would be brought back to Committee for further scrutiny and would that information be included in the consultation. Members noted that the Schools organisation process is difficult on the basis that there has to be proposals and a consultation before any designs are finalised.  The information, when available, will form part of the planning consultation.  That is a robust process.



Ysgol Mynydd Bychan


This item provided Members with the opportunity to carry out pre-decision scrutiny of the proposals and the recommendation to Cabinet to hold a public consultation on the proposals for primary school provision to service Cathays and parts of Gabalfa, Heath, Llandaff North and Plasnewydd.


Richard Portas, Programmed Director advised that the proposal has the following elements:



Increase the capacity of Ysgol Mynydd Bychan from 0.9 Forms of Entry (FE) to 1.5 FE from September 2022. The places will initially be located at Allensbank Primary School;


Allensbank Primary School will be consolidated at 1 FE from September 2022; and


A temporary increase to the reception year admission number from 30 to 45 from September 2021 if required.


A consultation will be required on these proposals.


Members were invited to comment, seek clarification, or raise questions on the information received. Those discussions are summarised as follows:




Members noted that in the shorter term the proposal is to move part of the school (Ysgol Mynydd Bychan) to the Allensbank Primary School site and asked how interim that arrangement to be. 

Members were advised that the location of school places at Allensbank will only be utilised if there is a need for September 2021. There is undoubtedly a need to look at a long term solution.



Members referenced the forecasted 29% surplus of English Medium primary provision by 2023 – 2024 and whether, in due course, there will be a need for there to be more effective proposals for both Welsh and English medium provision. Members were advised that quite clearly there is a need to undertake a full engagement  with the community in due course about what the long term proposals are.


The population figures are dropping across the city, it is not unique to this year and there is an unusual configuration of schools in that locality.  Site sharing arrangements are complex.   Demand is being stipulated in accordance with policy. 



Members expressed concerns about mixed aged year groups which a 1.5 FE will necessitate and whether the increase is not just a funding decision as it is very difficult for the schools leadership to manage. There were also concerns about the impact on school leadership and governance between the parents and supported school.


Members were advised that a key reason for bring forward the 0.5FE was partially to protect Ysgol Glan Ceubal.  The idea is to grow the catchment rather take from another Welsh medium school.  Consultation has taken place with the Head Teacher and Chair of Governors, not only from Ysgol Mynydd Bychan and Allensbank, but also from Ysgol Clan Ceubal in relation to any impact.  Further work is to be undertaken.  Both schools will need to be consulted as to which year group should be moved.  This is a model that has been used previously to grow schools particularly Welsh Medium schools.


There is as advantage on the basis that will be in the Foundation Phase and therefore not age critical.  It will depend on the numbers that present, but in normal practice you would have 2 smaller reception classes running.  If Year 1 and 2 there would have to be further dialogue about how the children become immersed and their level of learning.  Conversations have taken place  in which there has been confirmation of the need to stimulate demand and not shift pupils from one school to another  thereby compromising their viability of the new school.


AGREED: that the Chairperson, on behalf of the Committee, writes to the Cabinet Member conveying the observations of the Committee when discussing the way forward.

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