AGENDA ITEM NO 3
EXECUTIVE BOARD
4TH JULY 2011

Modernising Education Programme

Transformation of Secondary Education in the Dinefwr Area

Formal Consultation

RECOMMENDATIONS / KEY DECISIONS REQUIRED:
Recommendation

1. Executive Board considers the feedback received from stakeholders during the extensive consultation carried out on the County Council’s proposals for the transformation of secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area and decides whether to proceed to publish a statutory notice.

2. If a decision is taken to proceed to statutory notice that further work is done to evaluate how the County Council and the new schools, when (and if) established, can support parents and pupils under the new arrangement and during the transition phase.

REASONS:

To advise elected members of the response of school stakeholders and the general public to the formal consultation on the County Council’s proposals to transform secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area and to secure instruction from the Executive Board on future action.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee Consulted NO
Exec Board Decision Required YES
Council Decision Required NO – County Council approved the transformation strategy for the Dinefwr area on the 12th May 2010 and the report deals with the implementation of the Council’s policy.

Directorate :
Education and Children
Name of Director:
Robert Sully

Report Authors:
Robert Sully
Geraint Roberts

Designations:

Director

Director
Consultant Head Teacher

Tel Nos. :
E Mail Addresses:

Ext 4888
rasully@carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Ext 6636
GerRoberts@sirgar.gov.uk

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
EXECUTIVE BOARD
4th July 2011

Modernising Education Programme

Transformation of Secondary Education in the Dinefwr Area

Formal Consultation

Strategic, Policy and Funding Context

1. On the 12th May 2010 the County Council approved the submission of the Outline Business Case (OBC) for the transformation of secondary phase provision in the Dinefwr area to the Welsh Government (WG).

2. In so doing the County Council confirmed its policy for the reorganisation of secondary schools in the area, moving from the present unsustainable pattern of provision through the five existing schools at Amman Valley, Gwendraeth, Maes Yr Yrfa, Pantycelyn and Tre-Gib to a modern sustainable arrangement structured through three learning settings, to be achieved by:

    n developing the existing school at Amman Valley into a Bilingual Category 2B school, with investment to extend and modernise the existing premises;
    n creating a new Bilingual Category 2B school in the Tywi valley and to invest in the construction of wholly new premises for this new school - technical and transport appraisals of options for the provision of a new school conclude that an identified site in Ffairfach offers the most sustainable and cost effective solution;
    n creating a new Bilingual Category 2A school in Cwm Gwendraeth with investment on the site of the present Ysgol Maes Yr Yrfa to extend and modernise these premises for this new school.

4. In order to achieve this vision it is necessary to undertake a statutory process to establish two new schools and close the four present schools at Gwendraeth, Maes Yr Yrfa, Pantycelyn and Tre-Gib. The statutory process will also be used to embed improved arrangements for pupils with additional learning needs and disability within the three learning settings.

5. This school transformation strategy emerged from an appraisal of a series of options and is considered the optimum way for developing provision by reference to a series of investment objectives, which were developed though the tri-level reform engagement and planning process that began in 2007. The investment objectives are:

    n To ensure that the high standards of education currently achieved within Dinefwr secondary schools are maintained and continue to rise during the period 2010 to 2016 as measured by Estyn inspection reports and a range of external examination results.
    n To reduce duplication of courses and to increase average size of post 16 teaching groups in Dinefwr secondary schools.
    n To reduce the number of surplus places in Dinefwr secondary schools.
    n To ensure that Dinefwr secondary schools annually operate within the allocated budget.
    n To increase the number and size of Welsh medium teaching groups in all years 7 to 13.
    n To reduce the number of pupils that leave Welsh first language learning programmes from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 4.
    n To increase the number and range of courses, particularly in the 14 to 19 age range, that are taught in collaboration between the schools, Coleg Sir Gar, higher education institutions, work-based learning providers and the voluntary sector and to utilise the resources and expertise available within the Carmarthenshire network and neighbouring authorities.

6. On the 2nd August 2010 an official at WAG wrote to the County Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services to confirm that the Outline Business Case (OBC) submitted for the Dinefwr transformation programme had been approved, noting that “it offers a comprehensive assessment of the need for change” and that “the capital investment requirements for the development will now be progressed by our strategic capital team”.

7. On the 20th September 2010 the Executive Board received an update report on the status of the Dinefwr programme and resolved:

    n To note that the Welsh Government (WG) had approved the County Council’s Outline Business Case for the transformation of secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area, confirming that the education case is well made, and that discussions were continuing with WG on the capital implications of the project.

    n That, subject to the satisfactory completion of ongoing discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government, officers be authorised to proceed to consult formally on proposals for the transformation of secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area and to issue a formal notice at the earliest opportunity.

8. The minutes of this meeting of the Executive Board were received by the County Council at its meeting on the 20th October 2010.

9. The approval of the OBC achieved a significant milestone in the development of the transformation project and allowed it to proceed to the next critical phase of securing the required financial support from the Welsh Assembly Government prior to embarking upon statutory procedures to allow the structural change in the schools affected to take place.

10. Officers have been in continuous contact with Welsh Assembly Government officials since the approval of the OBC regarding the financial implications of the transformation programme and are now able to report that significant funding commitments have been secured.

11. On the 1st February 2011 the Welsh Assembly Government wrote to the Director of Education and Children’s Services confirming an award of 23.7 million capital grant towards the Dinefwr programme. WAG have advised separately that this award is intended for the construction of the new secondary school premises in the Tywi valley. It is made under Tranche 3 of the transitional 21st Century Schools Programme and represents a contribution of 80% towards the cost of the project. The remaining 20%, or 5.9 million, is to be provided by the County Council as a match funding contribution.

12. On the 15th March 2011 the Welsh Ministers announced a further wave of capital investment in infrastructure across Wales, including a sum of 8 million “for Dinefwr Cluster Tri-Level Reform – to reorganise learning provision for people aged 14 to 19 in the Dinefwr area of Carmarthenshire”. There is a requirement that this 8 million is spent during 2011/2012.

13. Furthermore, subsequent discussions between officers and WAG officials secured an agreement in principle for a further 13 million towards Dinefwr from 2012/2013 onwards.

14. There is no match funding requirement attached to the more recent announcements (for the 8 million and 13 million awards).

15. On the 11th May 2011 the County Council resolved to introduce the Dinefwr transformation programme into the corporate capital programme for 2011/2012 to 2013/2014 and approved the allocation of 5.9 million from the MEP fund as match funding for the Tranche 3 capital grant.

16. On the 23rd May 2011 a letter was received from the Welsh Government confirming the allocation of 8 million in 2011/2012 and an in principle award of 13 million for future years, subject to the approval of further business case submissions and without prejudice to any consideration or decision that might be required of Welsh Ministers in respect of statutory proposals for school reorganisation.

17. These funding confirmations now enable the County Council to plan for investment to modernise secondary school premises in the Dinefwr area with confidence, with over 50 million available over the next five years.

18. In accordance with the resolution of the Executive Board on the 20th September 2010, upon receipt of confirmation of capital grant funding from the Welsh Assembly Government officers proceeded with a formal consultation on the County Council’s proposals for the reorganisation of secondary schools in the Dinefwr area.

The Consultation Process

19. A detailed consultation paper was prepared in accordance with the principles set out in Welsh Assembly Government Circular No: 021/2009 – School Organisation Proposals (September 2009).

20. Copies of the consultation report were distributed to:

    n All elected members of the County Council.
    n The parents/guardians of all pupils registered at the five existing secondary schools.
    n The parents/guardians of all pupils registered at primary schools in the Dinefwr area and other primary schools affected by the proposals, e.g. where a change in primary/secondary family of schools is proposed, etc.
    n All governors of the five existing secondary schools.
    n Every member of staff employed at the five secondary schools.
    n All town and community councils in the Dinefwr area.
    n The Member of Parliament representing the Dinefwr area.
    n The Member of the National Assembly for Wales representing the Dinefwr area.
    n Neighbouring local authorities.
    n The Welsh Language Board.
    n The Church Diocese.
    n Estyn.

21. A comprehensive programme of consultation events has been held, as follows:

    n A seminar was held for elected members representing the Dinefwr area on the 19th April 2011. Members were provided with a copy of the consultation document, which forms the basis of the County Council’s formal reorganisation proposals and provided with information on a series of consultation meetings to be held with stakeholders.

    n A consultation meeting was held between senior officers and the Chairs of Governors and Head Teachers of the five secondary schools to describe the consultation process to be followed and to discuss matters related to the statutory consultation exercise.

    n A consultation meeting was held for the Chairs of Governors and Head Teachers of all the primary schools in the Dinefwr area at which senior officers presented and explained the County Council’s proposals, answered questions raised by those present and noted observations made by stakeholders.

    n Separate formal consultation meetings were held at each of the five current secondary schools with the governing body, the school council, school staff and parents, at which officers presented and explained the County Council’s proposals and engaged in discussions with the stakeholders present.

    n Three community consultation meetings were held at Gwendraeth, Pantycelyn and Tre-Gib schools at which senior officers presented and explained the Council’s proposals to members of the wider community and answered questions raised by those who attended. Community meetings of this nature are not required by the statutory consultation process but were nonetheless conducted by the Department to ensure that as wide an opportunity as possible was afforded to all interested parties to contribute their views and seek clarification on matters of interest.

    n Surgeries were held at each of the secondary schools to allow parents to discuss their individual concerns or to seek further detailed explanation on a private basis with the Project Consultant Head Teacher and relevant School Head Teacher. This was an innovative facility introduced by the Department, over and above the prescribed statutory process requirements, in an effort to allow all issues to be raised by parents and discussed discretely.

22. In advance of the meetings with the school councils each school made its own arrangements for pupils throughout the school to consider the transformation proposals, to discuss them with their peers and present observations or questions for the school council members to put to senior officers during the consultation meetings. A summary of these arrangements is included in the Consultation report.

23. In all, a total of 31 consultation events have been organised by the Department and held with stakeholders during May, with the exception of the seminar for elected members, which was held in April. Notes were made of the points raised by stakeholders at each of the meetings and of the responses made by officers at the events. These notes are included in the Consultation Report.

24. The formal consultation process built upon extensive informal consultation carried out in early 2009, based upon tri-level engagement and documentation in the form of the PAWB (Partneriaeth Ar Waith Bro) paper and a consultation paper entitled “Tri-Level Reform in the Dinefwr Area of Carmarthenshire: A First Strategic Review for Consultation”.

25. In January and February 2009 a total of 23 consultation meetings were held with school councils, school governors, school staff, parents and the wider community to discuss options for achieving the vision for the transformation of secondary education across Dinefwr. A consultation report was produced and from this the County Council determined its preferred way forward in June 2009.

26. The innovative tri-level reform process, which has included representatives from the Welsh Government, the County Council, the schools affected, including the Head Teachers and Chairs of Governors, representatives of Coleg Sir Gar and a number of community representatives, has guided the project from the very outset and has of itself facilitated consultation, engagement and participation by key stakeholders with an interest in the provision of secondary phase education. These stakeholders have been central to the development process throughout, further demonstrating the wholly inclusive, collaborative and consultative characteristics of the Dinefwr project. This transformation process was highlighted by WG in its publication “Transformation – Y Siwrnai: Transforming Education and Training in Wales (November 2009)” in which the County Council was commended for adopting “a transparent approach to appraising options for transformational change. For example, in reaching this stage of change management it has engaged a wider range of stakeholders in discussion, debate and consultation, and will continue to operate in an open and consultative manner to make improvements for all learners in Carmarthenshire”.

27. The consultation document is available in both Welsh and English on the County Council’s website.

28. Stakeholders were invited to make written representations on the County Council’s proposals to the Director of Education and Children’s Services by the 17th June 2011.

Responses to the Consultation Exercise

29. A total of 205 written responses have been received.

30. Given that there are presently 4086 pupils registered at the five secondary schools under consideration the number of formal representations received is very low. The responses, understandably, mainly emanate from the areas most significantly affected by the proposals. i.e. the Llandovery area and the Gwendraeth valley.

31. Considered geographically, in terms of the catchment areas of the proposed learning settings, the responses received are as follows:

    n Dyffryn Aman - 3 responses (2% of total)
    n Dyffryn Tywi - 158 responses (78% of total)
    n Cwm Gwendraeth - 33 responses (16% of total)
    n Dinefwr (General) - 11 responses (4% of total)

32. The level of response from the Dyffryn Aman area is very low. This is not surprising given that there is no statutory constitutional change proposed for the present school, other than to formally include an expanded provision for pupils with additional learning needs and disability. On this latter point, all but one of the respondents who made reference to this element of provision support the Council’s proposals.

33. The greater proportion of the responses received came from Dyffryn Tywi.

34. The significant majority of the responses came from Llandovery and the surrounding area. Almost all of these expressed concern over the selection of the recommended site for the new school.

35. This may have been influenced by an orchestrated campaign of opposition to the Council’s proposals by groups from the Llandovery area. Both the Governing Body of Ysgol Pantycelyn and the Save Ysgol Pantycelyn Action Group have been proactively encouraging people to register opposition to the Council’s proposals. Included in the Appendix to the Consultation Report are copies of letters written by the Chair of Governors at Ysgol Pantycelyn urging people to submit formal objections and a copy of an advertisement taken by the Save Ysgol Pantycelyn Action Group published in a community magazine circulating in the area, encouraging similar action.

36. Whilst these groups are free to promote their opinions of the County Council’s proposals it is of concern that the documentation circulated by them contains inaccuracies and offers misleading information to the public. Given the importance of this consultation exercise and its subject matter it is imperative that members of the public, in particular parents, have an objective understanding of the Council’s proposals and it is, therefore, appropriate that the misleading information in circulation is corrected. This is particularly important in that it appears from the written submissions received that a number of respondents have been guided by this misleading documentation.

37. It has been suggested that Council officers have instructed the consultants undertaking the site selection analysis to take demographic centrality (for the pupil population) as the only parameter for choosing a site. This is not true. A total of 26 criteria were used by the consultants to evaluate the feasibility for development of the first short-list of sites. Demographic centrality was one of these 26 criteria, as was geographic centrality.

38. The documentation in circulation notes that a site on the outskirts of Llangadog, one of three finally short-listed sites, is considered to be more favourable for development under 5 of the criteria than is the recommended site. This is correct but the documentation fails to note that for 10 of the other criteria the recommended site at Ffairfach is evaluated to be more suitable than the site at Llangadog.

39. A major criticism of the recommended site at Ffairfach offered by objectors is that the land under consideration is prone to flooding. A number of anecdotal observations have been made that activities planned for the “showground” site have had to be postponed many times due to the wet nature of the land. This latter point is not in dispute. However, the Council’s consultants have considered flooding risk at the recommended site in some depth and have developed a bespoke hydraulic model which has been the subject of consultation with the Environment Agency (Wales). To date the conversations held with the Environment Agency (Wales) indicate that it will be possible to develop a new school on the recommended site with all buildings, parking and hard landscaped areas and access and egress routes outside the predicted zone for a 1 in 1000 year extreme weather event with allowance for climate change, in satisfaction of national and local planning policy, including Technical Advice Note (TAN) 15.

40. Despite the extraordinary lengths to which the County Council has gone to involve key school stakeholders it is unfortunate that some persons continue to erroneously accuse Council officers of manipulating the site selection process. Officers and advisers have offered numerous explanations in both private and public meetings but the persons concerned have not been receptive to these representations. The sole interest of Council officers in this matter is to secure the best available solution for the education of learners in the Dinefwr area and officers have approached their task diligently and honestly throughout. There is no evidence available to officers to demonstrate that the technical appraisal of the candidate sites conducted by Atkins or the transport impact assessment conducted by Arup have been anything other than objective and professional.

41. Further detailed information on the selection of a site for the new school in Dyffryn Tywi and the pupil travel implications thereof is given below.

42. The remainder of the responses came primarily from the Llandeilo area and related to the proposed change in school family relationship whereby in future, post implementation of the proposals, Ysgol Teilo Sant will feed into the new Category 2A school in Cwm Gwendraeth whereas at present it feeds into the Category 2A school Ysgol Bro Myrddin. This latter issue is addressed below under the consideration of the linguistic characteristics of the proposal.

43. For Cwm Gwendraeth the responses relate mainly to the proposed language category of the new learning setting and concerns regarding transitional arrangements for pupils presently attending Ysgol Y Gwendraeth. The issue of the proposed language categories for the new learning settings is addressed in detail below.

Main Issues Raised by Respondents

44. Individual respondents have commented on a whole series of aspects of the County Council’s proposals, and these are detailed in the Consultation Report, but the main issues that emerge from the responses received are:

    n the selection of a site for the new school to be constructed in the Tywi Valley;
    n the proposed language categories of the new learning settings;
    n the transport implications arising out of the above;
    n the impact of the closure of Ysgol Pantycelyn on the town of Llandovery;
    n arrangements for pupils during the transition phase from the establishment of the new learning settings (subject to the approval of statutory procedures) until capital investment is completed.

(a) Selection of Site for the New School to be Constructed in the Tywi Valley

45. The selection of a site for the new school to be constructed in the Tywi valley has been challenged by a number of respondents.

46. The preferred site for the location of a new school in the Tywi Valley has been arrived at through a thorough site selection process, based upon a series of criteria that are standard practice for the purpose, and in accordance with the usual requirements of the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Plan of Work.

47. The County Council was advised in the site selection process by Atkins, one of the Council’s consultancy framework partners, who undertook the analysis of the candidate sites.

48. A total of 16 potential sites were identified along the length of the valley from Llandeilo to Llandovery and examined technically to assess their feasibility for development for a new secondary school. This long list was reduced to an initial short list of 7 as a number of the sites were not considered appropriate for a range of reasons. Following further more detailed consideration the short list was reduced to 3 sites and these were evaluated even further.

49. As a consequence of the comprehensive technical appraisal of the candidate sites a site in Ffairfach was recommended as the technically most feasible for development for a new secondary school and offers the most sustainable option.

50. All technical appraisals completed by the Council’s technical advisers to date indicate that it is feasible to develop a school on the identified site in satisfaction of all statutory requirements, e.g. planning policy, access, alleviation of flood risk, etc.

51. It is of significant note that the Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency has advised the Council’s consultants that it will oppose any proposed development of a new secondary school to be accessed directly off the A40 trunk road. The Department is given to understand that the Trunk Road Agency has powers of direction in this matter. This could offer a serious impediment to the potential for the development of the old builder’s merchant site near Llangadog and, indeed, other sites along the valley.

52. The whole site selection process is set out in a comprehensive report prepared by Atkins.

53. It is important to note that the County Council has taken a wholly inclusive and transparent approach to the site selection process throughout. Representatives of the existing schools at Tre-Gib and Pantycelyn have been directly involved in the process from the outset and information relevant to site selection has been shared with them openly from the very beginning of the process. Representatives of the governing bodies have been party to many meetings with officers and consultants to discuss the site selection process, its findings and progress.

54. As noted previously, a large proportion of the respondents from the Dyffryn Tywi area have expressed concern over the selection of the recommended site. It is interesting to note that a significant proportion of the parents in the area, either with children at Ysgol Pantycelyn or due to attend there in the future, have accepted the need for structural change to the schools in the interests of improving education and have expressed support for this in principle but are concerned over the travel implications of the site at Ffairfach. It is evident that parents hold sincere concerns on this issue. During the consultation meetings and in written submissions a number of people expressed concern in particular over pupils being able to access extra-curricular opportunities outside the normal school day because of the travel distances involved and over the potential additional travel burden for some pupils in accessing some subjects under the 14 to 19 Learning Pathways programme.

(b) Proposed Language Categories of Schools

54. In the main, the Council’s strategy to create one Category 2A school and two Category 2B schools appears to have been accepted but polarised opinions proposing alternative arrangements were voiced by a relatively small number of people. These ranged from demands for Welsh medium education with no choice available (Category 1) to demands for English medium education with little or no Welsh medium provision (Category 2Ch/3/4).

55. Guidance given to local authorities by the Welsh Assembly Government in Circular No: 021/2009 – School Organisation Proposals (September 2009) (paragraph 1.24) states an LA should take account of its Welsh Education Scheme and relevant all Wales language strategies and plans in developing proposals for the closure, opening and alteration of Welsh medium or bilingual schools and should, so far as is practicable, aim to meet parental demand for Welsh or English medium teaching. Proposals should be informed by measures of demand based on local surveys or other local sources.” The WLB describes language demand surveys as “an essential planning tool”.

56. In November 2009 the Welsh Language Board published “Measuring the Demand for Welsh Medium Education: Good Practice Document”, which sets out guidelines for the conducting of surveys to identify parental preference. Although pre-dating the publication of this document by a few months the process deployed by the Department to gauge parental preference in the Dinefwr area with respect to language choice follows very closely the good practice guidance set out by the Welsh Language Board.

57. In its guidance document the WLB notes that “responses to surveys conducted during recent years suggest that between 30% and 40% is the norm”. The overall response rate across Dinefwr, at 40%, is at the higher end of this range of expectation and it is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that the findings of the survey offer a representative indication of parental demand for the purpose of planning school places.

58. The structural framework proposed by the County Council, to establish one Category 2A school and two Category 2B schools, reflects very closely the preferences expressed by parents in the survey conducted across Dinefwr. It will establish a firm platform at the outset of the new arrangements from which the new learning settings can continue to develop their linguistic provision over time in accordance with the County Council’s Welsh Education Scheme and the wishes of parents. For the immediate term it ensures Welsh medium education for those who desire it and provides enhanced opportunities for bilingual learning for others, significantly above that currently available. It achieves the parallel objectives of promoting Welsh medium and bilingual education for all whilst offering parental choice.

59. It also sets in place a robust platform to achieve the investment objectives to “increase the number and size of Welsh medium teaching groups in all years 7 to 13” and “reduce the number of pupils that leave Welsh first language learning programmes from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 4”.

60. Throughout the consultation process officers consistently promoted the benefits of bilingualism as a key skill, alongside literacy, numeracy, and information technology competencies.

61. The proposals, therefore, present a pragmatic and progressive approach, acknowledging that parental preference is a fundamental tenet of law for access to education and the Council’s statutory responsibilities for the strategic planning and management of school places. They will promote the most significant and proactive shift in Welsh medium and bilingual education in the county for many years.

62. The Plaid Cymru Group of elected members of the County Council has submitted a comprehensive written response to the consultation with particular reference to linguistic issues. The detail of this and the response of officers to this submission are set out in the Consultation Report.

(c) Transport Implications

63. The pupil home to school transport implications of the County Council’s proposals have generated a significant response within the formal consultation process with a number of respondents expressing concern over the effect that increased travel times and journey lengths could have for some pupils.

64. Welsh Assembly Government Circular No: 021/2009 – School Organisation Proposals (September 2009) establishes that “the effect on accessibility to schools, particularly in rural areas and on journey times to school” is one of the key considerations which local authorities should take into account in the development of proposals to change the pattern of provision, along with other factors such as the effect on the standard of education to be provided, the extent to which proposals will improve efficiency and the match between the number and location of school places and demand, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and others. It also notes that “an important consideration is the welfare of children if journeys one way would exceed one hour for secondary pupils”. In addition, “the recurrent costs to the LA of transporting pupils to schools further away needs to be taken into account”.

65. Importantly, the Circular establishes that “at all times, the effect of a proposal on educational standards will be the prime consideration”.

66. Alongside the technical site selection analysis consultants Arup were commissioned to undertake travel impact assessments for the options under consideration in each of the three parts of Dinefwr – the Aman, Gwendraeth and Tywi valleys.

67. These assessments were based upon the latest data available at the time of their production in early 2010 and planning assumptions for the future, e.g. pupil number projections, etc. Studies of this nature are not able to anticipate with certainty decisions that parents may take in the future over choice of school and the findings must therefore, be treated as indicative. They do, however, offer a useful assessment of the potential impact of the school reorganisation proposals for pupil travel at either end of the normal school day. The assessments are in the process of being updated but the findings of this work are not available for inclusion within this report. They will, nonetheless, inform future project development.

68. For Dyffryn Aman the cost of home to school transport is predicted to remain broadly similar to present but could increase a little depending upon whether some families presently served by Ysgol Y Gwendraeth decide in future to send their children to Ysgol Dyffryn Aman. It is not possible to predict with any accuracy the implications of this possibility at this time. No concerns have been identified over journey times.

69. For Dyffryn Tywi the study compared the accessibility and cost implications of the three short-listed sites at Ffairfach, the former Beechwood site to the north of Llandeilo and the former builders merchant site to the west of Llangadog.

70. This assessment concluded that the site at Ffairfach offers the most sustainable and cost effective option. Critically, the consultants advised that locating a new school on the former builders merchant site at Llangadog, the location favoured by many people in the upper Tywi valley, would generate estimated additional revenue costs in excess of 500,000 per annum for the transport of pupils to and from the school. This is because a high proportion of the pupils likely to attend the new school live either within or to the south of Llandeilo. If a school were to be located to the north of Llandeilo this would introduce a higher number of bus movements through the town than if the new school is located to the south of the town as a greater number of pupils would fall outside the statutory walking distance of 3 miles and would, therefore, qualify for free school transport. A location of a school to the north of Llandeilo would also generate additional emissions from vehicles. This additional impact is not sustainable in cost or environmental terms.

71. The report does identify that up to 40 pupils (presently in school) will be subject to a journey time one way of a little over one hour. For the future, pupils residing in the remote rural areas to the north of Llandovery could, if they wish, elect to attend other schools outside Carmarthenshire, e.g. Lampeter would be an alternative for the majority. If they exercised this choice these pupils would continue to benefit from free school transport under the “nearest or designated” rule within the Council’s transport policy and would have a journey time of less than one hour. All other pupils would have a journey time one way of less than an hour.

72. Arup advise that the location of the site for the new school in Ffairfach offers a lower average journey time for pupils transported by designated school bus services (estimated 29 minutes) compared to the Llangadog option (estimated 35 minutes).

73. Interestingly, the consultants advise that locating the new school at Ffairfach could generate annual revenue savings of over 100,000 compared to the present two site arrangement (Pantycelyn and Tre-Gib) due to the potential that this creates for improved efficiency in the routing and loading of vehicles.

74. In Cwm Gwendraeth the assessment concluded that the cost of home to school transport could increase by a sum approaching 100,000 per annum as a greater number of pupils will qualify for free school transport. No pupils are expected to have a travel time one way in excess of an hour, with the maximum travel time predicted to be of the order of 45 minutes.

75. Across Dinefwr, the financial implications for home to school transport are predicted to be broadly neutral.

76. The three new learning settings in the region will need to give careful consideration to how they offer and maintain opportunities for their pupils to access the whole curriculum and especially extra-curricular activities.

77. Should a decision be taken to progress to a statutory notice further work to evaluate how the County Council may, together with the new schools when (and if) established, support pupils and parents under the proposed new arrangement should be carried out to assess how progress may be facilitated most effectively.

78. A number of parents expressed concern during the consultation over the future of post 16 home to school transport provision. With the inevitable position that some pupils will be required to travel further distances in future to access the education of their choice, parents expressed concern that if free post 16 transport is removed at a point in the future that this will make it difficult for some young people to continue with their post-statutory education due to the cost implications for families and the practical difficulties that this would present to some families and learners, especially in the rural areas. Officers explained that there is no statutory entitlement to free post 16 transport and that provision is at the discretion of the local authority. This was understood by consultees but they expressed concern that in the present financial climate the provision of post 16 transport could be at risk due to the need for the local authority to reduce expenditure and that any decision to remove this provision would jeopardise educational opportunities for learners.

(d) Community Impact

79. During the consultation concerns were expressed over the potential impact of the closure of Ysgol Pantycelyn on the town of Llandovery.

80. Welsh Assembly Government Circular No: 021/2009 – School Organisation Proposals offers guidance on how local authorities proposing school reorganisation should consider the wider impact of their proposals.

81. It declares that “LAs and other promoters will also need to consider …. the impact that proposals may have on local families and the local community, through the preparation of a community impact assessment”, and “the prime purpose of schools is the provision of education. … the educational interests of pupils in the area should always be the prime concern”.

82. The Circular offers guidance on the content of a community impact assessment. The requirements broadly are to assess the wider use by the community of the school’s premises and what the impact of closure would be on these and how parents’ and pupils’ engagement with the alternative arrangements proposed can be supported.

83. It became evident during the consultation events and in considering the written responses received that a number of people expect wider social and economic issues to be evaluated as part of the County Council’s proposals. During the meetings officers explained that the Council must be guided in its presentation of proposals by the extant legislative framework and accompanying formal guidance.

84. Crucially, the Circular directs that “at all times, the effect of a proposal on educational standards will be the prime consideration”. It adds, “proposals for changes in the organisation of schools must be seen against the background of the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to drive up standards of teaching and attainment in all schools, and increase school effectiveness. LAs and others bringing forward proposals should give prime consideration to the effect of the proposed change on the standard of education to be provided in the area. In particular, the interests of learners should override all others and inequalities in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged areas, groups and individuals must be narrowed in the interests of all”. Officers have maintained that in presenting proposals for the reconfiguration of secondary education the focus must remain on educational objectives.

(e) Transitional Arrangements

85. The County Council’s proposals include a reconstitution of some secondary/primary school families. This has been approved by County Council as part of the catchment area review completed in 2010 and within the Outline Business Case for Dinefwr. In particular, the primary schools at Llansawel, Talley, Llandeilo, Teilo Sant, Cwrt Henri and Llanfynnydd presently feed Ysgol Bro Myrddin but under the proposed arrangements will feed the new setting at Cwm Gwendraeth. This is a necessary move in order to balance the provision of Welsh medium education across the county’s Category 2A settings and to facilitate the viability of each of the settings in terms of pupil numbers. This does, however, have potential consequences for some families and a number of parents in the Llandeilo area who currently have children attending the primary schools concerned and Ysgol Bro Myrddin have expressed concerns over the potential implications of this issue for their children. Some are concerned that their children may not be able to attend Ysgol Bro Myrddin together as the designated school for the younger siblings, presently in the primary sector, will change should the Council’s procedures be approved. Whilst these children would still be able to attend Ysgol Bro Myrddin, assuming that places are available, they would, under the Council’s transport policy, no longer be entitled to free school transport. A number of parents have asked whether the County Council will be prepared to grant concessions to the families concerned so that their children may be supported to be educated together. It is not possible to determine this issue at this time but the Council may wish to give consideration to this request as the project moves forward. An assessment of the cost of any such concession will need to be evaluated. This matter does not fundamentally affect the Council’s proposals but is evidently a significant issue for the families affected.

86. A number of parents of children presently attending Ysgol Y Gwendraeth have voiced concerns over the provision of education for their children whilst they remain in the present school setting during the period from the establishment of the new Cwm Gwendraeth school, which will operate on two sites (the present Ysgol Maes Yr Yrfa and Ysgol Y Gwendraeth sites) for an interim period of up to four years, whilst capital investment work is underway and the pupils in question complete their statutory phase of education (up to GCSE). This is a particularly challenging aspect of the transformation programme. It is not possible at this time to offer absolute clarity on how exactly this issue is to be managed as it will be influenced by a number of factors, not least the expression of parental preference. The Department has assured parents that the pupils in this position will receive every support that they need in completing their statutory education and this will be a key issue for the new school when constituted to address in partnership with the local authority, parents and pupils.

Principal Conclusions

87. The principal conclusion to be drawn from the consultation exercise is that the County Council’s rationale for change has largely been accepted and there is a general recognition that the present provision is not sustainable and cannot meet educational objectives looking forward.

88. Some people expressed a wish to see present arrangements maintained but these are in a significant minority. Where expressions for the status quo were expressed they were largely founded upon logistical issues, e.g. transport, rather than educational imperatives.

89. No coherent alternative to the County Council’s educational and structural proposals was offered during the consultation process.

90. Whilst the location of the preferred site for the new school in Dyffryn Tywi has been selected on the basis of robust technical, business case and environmental criteria it is acknowledged that the travel implications for some pupils will be significant.

91. There is no question that the issues of site location and their transport implications, which are inextricably linked and cannot be decoupled, present a difficult challenge for the region as a whole but especially in Dyffryn Tywi. The heavy weighting of the pupil population to the south of the new school catchment area dictates that a site in this part of the catchment will inevitably emerge as the most economically and environmentally effective and sustainable option. As it happens, in Dyffryn Tywi a comprehensive site selection analysis, which considered candidate sites the whole length of the Tywi valley from Llandeilo to Llandovery, and an initial transport impact assessment concluded that a site in the south of the catchment area offers the most feasible and sustainable option. Taken together, both these considerations present an irresistible case in favour of the recommended site at Ffairfach.

92. This said, there are significant travel implications for pupils living in the more remote rural areas of the catchment, especially to the north of Llandovery. The concerns voiced by stakeholders on this issue before and during the consultation exercise are understood. Should the Council’s proposals be approved it will be appropriate for the Authority to continue to work with the new schools and parents to address these issues as effectively as possible.

The Consultation Report

93. The attached Consultation Report summarises the feedback received from stakeholders and the public during the consultation events and in written submissions.

94. The report is presented in 6 parts:

    n Part 1 – a copy of the formal consultation document.
    n Part 2 – a summary of the main points raised within the responses received and the response of officers to these points.
    n Part 3 – a detailed analysis of the responses received.
    n Part 4 - a record of each of the consultation meetings in summary note format. This does not include the surgeries held with individual parents or families as these were confidential conversations.
    n Part 5 - a schedule listing respondents. A small number of respondents specifically asked that their identities be not revealed publicly and this has been respected in the construction of the report.
    n Part 6 - Appendices

95. The structure of the Consultation Report is consistent with the factors that the Welsh Ministers will take into account in reaching their decision on whether to approve the County Council’s proposals, in accordance with the criteria set out in Section 2 of Welsh Assembly Government Circular No: 021/2009 – School Organisation Proposals (September 2009).

96. Some submissions received were lengthy and referred to a number of different issues. Where this is the case the submissions have been paraphrased and the various points separated into appropriate issues or themes. This has been necessary to aid the construction of the Consultation Report.

97. The submissions made by respondents are reproduced, either in whole or in paraphrased format, in the language in which they were submitted, with a response presented by officers in the same language. To aid the reader and to minimise the volume of the report documentation the summary is presented in English.

98. The detailed written submissions of respondents are available for viewing.

Recommendation

1. Executive Board considers the feedback received from stakeholders during the extensive consultation carried out on the County Council’s proposals for the transformation of secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area and decides whether to proceed to publish a statutory notice.

2. If a decision is taken to proceed to statutory notice that further work is done to evaluate how the County Council and the new schools, when (and if) established, can support parents and pupils under the new arrangement and during the transition phase.

DETAILED REPORTS ATTACHED?

YES

INTEGRATION

I confirm that the Community Strategy Integration Tool has :
Not been used to appraise the subject of this report as it is not appropriate at this stage to do so. The development of business cases for the transformation programme has paid regard all relevant sustainability issues. The programme will seek to maximise opportunities for the creation of sustainable school premises through the application of the BREEAM methodology.

Signed : Robert Sully Director of Education and Children’s Services

IMPLICATIONS

I confirm that other than those implications which have been agreed with the appropriate Directors / Heads of Service and are referred to in detail below, there are no other implications associated with this report :

Signed : Robert Sully Director of Education and Children’s Services

Policy, Crime & Disorder and Equalities

Legal

Finance

ICT

Risk Management Issues

Staffing Implications

Physical Assets

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

YES

1. Policy, Crime & Disorder and Equalities

The recommendations are in accordance with established County Council strategy for the transformation of secondary phase education in the Dinefwr area.

2. Legal

A prescribed statutory process to achieve the objectives of the Dinefwr transformation programme has commenced with formal consultation meetings taking place during May 2011. It is intended to publish a statutory notice detailing the Council’s proposals for the rationalisation of secondary school provision in the area in September and following the statutory objection period to submit the proposals to the Welsh Ministers in October 2011 for determination.

Investment in the provision of new school premises and the modernisation of existing school premises will require statutory approvals, such as planning permission, building regulations approvals, etc. These will be secured as the programme elements proceed through the design and preparation process.

3. Finance
The reconfiguration of secondary schools in the Dinefwr area will have significant financial implications for the County Council including a substantial capital investment to match fund Welsh Assembly Government capital grants.

The Welsh Assembly Government has confirmed its allocation of 23.7 million for the Tywi valley new school premises, subject to contract, which will be agreed and signed later in the year. A match funding contribution of 5.9 million has been approved by the County Council. This is available from the modernising education fund. WG has also confirmed the award of 8 million which is to be expended during 2011/2012 on the other two school premises modernisation elements in Cwm Gwendraeth and Dyffryn Amman. WG has indicated to the County Council that a further 13 million is allocated for Dinefwr from 2012/2013 onwards. The precise details for the distribution of this latter award are to be confirmed in due course but WG has indicated that the County Council may plan to deliver this investment.

4. ICT
The use of ICT is of critical importance to the management and delivery of education in order to facilitate and implement the breadth of curricular choice necessary for all learners. The provision of new, adapted, or refurbished buildings will provide the opportunity for ICT to be integrated into modern infrastructure which is extremely reliable and easy to use. The aspirations are to develop real and virtual workspaces which help to make effective, personalised learning a reality for all students; enable teachers and other professionals to focus on their core tasks and be more effective; and provide parents and carers with easy access to information about learners’ achievements and progress. Also it will facilitate access to high quality learning materials in a wide range of settings through as wide a range of end-user devices as possible.

5. Risk Management Issues
Failure to implement the Dinefwr secondary transformation programme will place the education of significant numbers of pupils at risk and prevent the County Council from making progress towards its policy objectives for education in the area. Opportunities to achieve policy objectives for the development of the Welsh language in education could be lost.
If the proposals are not implemented the Council’s ability to meet its statutory obligations under the Learning and Skills Measure (Wales) 2009 will be compromised.
Failure to progress the Dinefwr transformation programme will place over 44 million of Welsh Government capital grants at significant risk, to the detriment of learners in the Dinefwr area.

6. Physical Assets
Proposals for the transformation and modernisation of the schools network will have significant implications for the schools estate. This will involve the creation of new school premises and the refurbishment of some existing school premises. It will also result in some existing operational assets becoming redundant. When this situation arises assets will be managed in accordance with established policies.
Investment in new facilities will have regard to partnership working and will foster the co-location of services, including those managed by partner organisations, where practical and beneficial.

7. Staffing Implications
Proposals for the transformation of school structures will inevitably have significant staffing implications requiring workforce re-modelling. Specific issues cannot be forecast with accuracy at this early stage and issues will be dealt with and reported as individual projects or groups of projects develop.
Staffing implications will be addressed in accordance with the County Council’s Redeployment Policy and Procedures following the outcome of future statutory proposals.

CONSULTATIONS

I confirm that the appropriate consultations have taken in place and the outcomes are as detailed below
Signed : Robert Sully Director of Education and Children’s Services

1. Local Member(s)
Local members in the Dinefwr area have been involved throughout the development of the project and a number of seminars have been held for elected members. In addition, newsletters have periodically been circulated by Cllr. Gwyn Wooldridge, the Executive Board member for Education and Children’s Services, to all members to keep them informed of the progress of the project.

Most recently a seminar was held for elected members on the 19th April 2011 to describe the formal consultation process. Members were provided with a copy of the formal consultation document, which details the County Council’s reorganisation proposals.

2. Community / Town Council
Copies of the formal consultation document were distributed to all Town and Community councillors in the Dinefwr area and they were invited to participate during the informal consultation process through the public community meetings that were organised and were invited to make written representations.

3. Relevant Partners
Partner organisations have been actively engaged and consulted throughout an extended period in developments affecting 14 – 19 Learning Pathways and Dinefwr proposals. The Dinefwr Joint Committee of Governors which includes school and college representatives has been involved throughout the process of developing proposals for the Dinefwr area.

4. Staff Side Representatives and other Organisations
School staff were included in the consultation process and meetings were held with staff in each of the present secondary schools. Every member of staff employed in these schools was provided with a copy of the consultation paper. Teaching and non-teaching staff unions have been consulted during the formal consultation stage.

 

Section 100D Local Government Act, 1972 – Access to Information
List of Background Papers used in the preparation of this report:

Title of Document

File Ref No.

Locations that the papers are available for public inspection

School Organisation Proposals

WAG, circular 23/2002

www.wales.gov.uk

Community Focused Schools

WAG, circular 34/2003

www.wales.gov.uk

The Learning Country : Vision into Action

WAG, 2006

www.wales.gov.uk

Iaith Pawb: A National Action Plan for a Bilingual Wales

WAG, 2007

www.wales.gov.uk

School Effectiveness Framework

WAG, 2008

www.wales.gov.uk

Skills that Work for Wales: A Skills and Employment Strategy and Action Plan

WAG, July 2008

www.wales.gov.uk

Transforming Education and Training Provision in Wales: Delivering Skills that Work for Wales

WAG, September 2008

www.wales.gov.uk

School Organisation Proposals

WAG,
Consultation doc. 060/2008, October 2008

www.wales.gov.uk

National Assembly for Wales Rural Development Sub-Committee Inquiry into the Reorganisation of Schools in Rural Wales

WAG, November 2008

www.wales.gov.uk

Collaborative Arrangements between Further Education Institutions and Schools

WAG, circular 007/2009,
February 2009

www.wales.gov.uk

Learning and Skills Measure (Wales)

WAG, March 2009

www.wales.gov.uk

Modernising Education Provision

CCC, November 2004, along with subsequent annual progress reports

www.carmarthesnhire.gov.uk

Single Education Plan 2006-08

CCC, September 2006

www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Children and Young People’s Plan 2008-11

CCC, September 2008

www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Welsh Education Scheme 2006-2011

CCC, September 2006

www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk

Transformation – Y Siwrnai

WAG, November 2009

www.wales.gov.uk