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Agenda Item No.

 

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 13TH APRIL, 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 16TH MARCH 2015

 

 

BARRY SECONDARY SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION (REF) –

 

The report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee by Cabinet for consideration, at its meeting on 23rd February 2015.  Cabinet approval had been sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to transform secondary education in Barry, by establishing a new mixed English medium comprehensive school, by expanding Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and by relocation to create two distinct campuses for Welsh medium and English medium education. 

 

In presenting the report, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools advised that as a Cabinet Member and an LA Governor for one of the schools he was entitled to speak at the Committee but not vote as he was not a Member of the Committee.  In commencing, the Cabinet Member stated that the case for the establishment of mixed sex secondary provision in Barry had been debated intermittently over a number of years with interest having increased in recent years to the extent that following a Cabinet decision on 15th July 2013, public consultation had been undertaken to establish the extent of local support for the principle of co-education in Barry.  That consultation had sought to establish local views about the establishment of a co-educational school formed by the amalgamation of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools which would operate on the two current sites.  In total 951 people had participated in the consultation including parents, children and young people and members of staff.  The responses indicated that:

 

·            81% of parent respondents supported a change to co-educational secondary

·            schooling;

·            The large number of highly positive comments offered by parents indicate that this view was strongly held;

·            The social and well-being benefits for learners were the key factors driving the

·            response;

·            75% of secondary school pupil respondents supported a change; and the possible social benefits of mixed schooling are a key factor;

·            69% of primary school pupils who participated in the consultation sessions said they would prefer to attend a mixed secondary school;

·            92% of staff respondents did not support a change to co-educational secondary schooling in Barry.  Many staff had concerns about how possible change might affect them and the implications for teaching across a split site school.

 

Following consideration of the responses, Cabinet had instructed officers to begin a programme of work to develop detailed proposals for a change to co-educational secondary schooling and that the detailed proposals should address the concerns raised by the parents and members of school staff who felt they would not support a change.  Cabinet also established at the time a Project Board to progress the work required to develop detailed proposals for an amalgamation. 

 

With regard to Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, the Council had recently consulted on a proposal to amalgamate the schools to create a new all through school from September 2015, and following that consultation a statutory notice had been published on 6th January 2015 to amalgamate those schools. 

 

With regard to the capacity of Barry, Bryn Hafren and Bro Morgannwg schools, the numbers on rolls at the Pupil Level Annual Schools Survey (PLASC) 2014 as well as projected pupil numbers were shown at Appendix A to the report.  The number on roll at Barry Comprehensive in January 2014 was 1,062 which included a sixth form of 197 pupils compared to a current capacity of 1,423.  The number on roll at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive was 1,106 including a sixth form of 256 compared to a capacity of 1,331.  Projections also showed a shortage of places in the Welsh medium secondary sector from 2020 onwards which had also been reported to Cabinet on 10th March 2014 and at that time Cabinet had resolved that “the request to carry out a feasibility study to investigate how the required expansion of Welsh medium secondary education could be accommodated be approvedâ€. 

 

Property condition surveys had also been carried out for all Vale schools with the inspections comprising a visual assessment of the condition of all exposed parts of the buildings to identify significant defects and items of disrepair.  The Cabinet Member advised that the three comprehensive school buildings although generally in a satisfactory condition some elements were in poor condition exhibiting major defects. 

 

With regard to pupil attainment and school improvement, the Council had placed on record its concerns about performance, at two of the three schools over the past two years, and the schools’ capacity for rapid and sustainable improvement.  Whilst there had been improvement in some areas by these schools, performance on key measures in Key Stage 4 in particular, remained poor when compared to similar schools.  Appendix C to the report showed the outcomes for the three schools against the key measures over a period of four years as well as the quartile ranking when compared to similar schools.

 

The report, further outlined that as part of the work carried out by the Project Board to further develop proposals, research had been carried out on amalgamations and split site education which had included desk top analysis as well as telephone and face to face interviews with leaders involved in recent, mixed gender amalgamations and split - site schools.  Examples had been sought which matched as closely as possible the demographic, social and educational context of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools. 

 

In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council would need to comply with the statutory process within the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and the report detailed the process that was required to be undertaken.  To aid effective engagement and communication with the schools directly affected by the proposals, it had been suggested that a Barry Secondary School Transformation Board be established.  The membership of the Board to include the Chair of Governors and the Headteacher of Barry Comprehensive School, Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School and Bro Morgannwg / Nant Talwg and two primary headteachers.  The Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools, the Chairman of Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) and senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate would also be members of the Board.

 

In further presenting the report, the Cabinet Member referred to the 21st Century Schools investment programme and in referring to Cowbridge, St. Cyres and Llantwit Major Schools that had been part of that programme, advised that these had been prioritised because of the conditions of the school buildings.  With regard to Barry and Bryn Hafren, additional funding was required and consideration had to be clearly identified for Welsh medium education hence Bro Morgannwg being part of the proposals.

 

The Cabinet Member also referred to the detailed options as contained within the report, available to the Council, as follows:

 

Option A: A new English medium school operated as a split site school organised accordingly to Key Stages and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg expanded on its current site

 

Option B: The new English medium school operated as a split site school organised according to pupil houses and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg expanded on its current site

 

Option C: Two separate English medium schools on separate sites and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site

 

Option D: One English medium school on one site and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on the current Bryn Hafren site

 

Option E: One English medium school on one site (new build) and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site

 

Option F: Federation of the two English medium schools and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg be expanded on its current site

 

Option G: Status quo.

 

Although the Cabinet Member advised that Option D was the preferred option as highlighted within the report, he stressed that no decision had yet been made.  It had been suggested that the Bryn Hafren site could be sold for housing but he had been advised that this would not be acceptable.  His main focus was the education for the children and that it was now time for consultation to be undertaken in order for the options to be considered.  However, he stated that the status quo was not an option, the Council had an obligation for Welsh medium education and that the Ysgol Bro Morgannwg site would not be sustainable in its current form for such education.  Pupil number projections and parents’ preferences had been analysed with Option D being suggested as the preferred option.  Appendix F to the report detailed a full breakdown of the capital costs for each option. 

 

In referring to funding for the proposals, although no confirmation had been given by Welsh Government, he did remain confident that 50% funding would be provided.

 

Following the presentation of the report, the Chairman advised all present that he had invited Trade Union representatives and members of the public (not employed or related to an employee nor a Governor or related to a Governor, of the schools involved ) to make representations to the Scrutiny Committee on service generic issues.  He had also invited the Chairman of Governors of the relevant schools and / or their representative to attend the meeting and give evidence.  All speakers had been afforded the opportunity of between 3-5 minutes for their representations / evidence and he had been advised that some Elected Members who were not Members of the Committee also wished to speak on the matter.

 

The Chairman also took the opportunity to advise the public, that Members who were Governors of schools appointed by the Local Authority were eligible to speak and, if they were a Member of the Committee, were able to speak and vote.  Co-opted Members on the Committee were also eligible to speak and vote unless they were Governors of schools not appointed by the Local Authority, where they could make representations but would have to leave the room thereafter.  Non-voting Observers on the Committee would also have to leave the room if they had a personal / prejudicial interest in the report. 

 

The Chairman confirmed that the following had requested permission to speak and they were in turn invited to present to the Scrutiny Committee:

 

-             Ms. Jayne Stechfield (NASUWT National Executive Member)

-             Mr. Rob Williams (NAHT) – written representations had been received

-             Mrs. Kath Beaudette (Chairman of Governors, Barry Comprehensive) – written representations had been received

-             Ms. Carole Tyley (Chairman of Governors, Bryn Hafren Comprehensive) – written representations had been received

-             Mr. R. Evans (Governor Ysgol Bro Morgannwg) – written representations also received

-             Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson (Elected Member).

 

In commencing her presentation, Ms. Stechfield advised that her Union welcomed the invitation to speak and would engage in the consultation process.  In referring to the process that had already taken place and the fact that the initial consultation advised of 951 respondents to the issue of co-education  in her view, this was a small mandate. The Union was also against the proposal for a super school of over 2,000 pupils as this, it was considered would be impractical.  The report they believed had not addressed the impact of Free School Meals (FSM) on standards and the English schools that had been used as comparisons in developing the proposals were not considered good comparable examples.  Ms. Stechfield made reference in the first instance  to the uncertainty associated with the funding for the proposals as well as the vulnerability of some learners as, in the Union’s view, a large school would not necessarily lend itself to assist some learners.  The Union remained unclear as to the reason why Option D had been singled out, and although she welcomed the Council’s enthusiasm to invest in schools and co-education, the Union’s  preferred option would be for a smaller school as opposed to the larger school being proposed. 

 

Written representations which had been received from Mr. Rob Williams of the NAHT, who had been unable to attend the meeting, were tabled for consideration and referred to concern in relation Option D and the potential risks involved.  The Committee, in referring to the document, noted Mr. Williams’ comments that Option D would be highly reliant upon accessing Welsh Government capital funding and there was no guarantee that the Vale would be successful in accessing the required funds.  The need to make provision for Welsh medium places was clearly evident, however, if the Vale was not able to access the required funding there might be a perception that the Welsh medium provision had been the main priority and driver and that the English medium provision had been compromised in order to meet the Welsh medium demand, although he stated that there were certainly no issues from his Union’s perspective with the co-educational model or the need to make provision for increased Welsh medium demand. 

 

Ms. Kath Beaudette and Ms. Carole Tyley, Chairmen of Governors of Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive, were then afforded the opportunity to address the Committee.

 

Ms. Tyley commenced by advising that neither of the two Comprehensive schools had as yet held a full Governing Body meeting to discuss the proposals.  She however, referred to the positives that Bryn Hafren could offer in relation to a number of facilities some of which were not available at Barry Comprehensive School.  In the main, her concerns related to the issues of the timing of the GCSE implementation and the proposed size of the school.  In her opinion, Year 10 was a crucial time for young people and undertaking a phased transition would result in too much disruption.  The concerns in relation to the funding for the schemes she stated was similar to those that had been raised by the representative from the NASUWT and the NAHT.

 

Mrs. Beaudette stated that both herself and Ms. Tyley had been new Chairs of Governors in the recent year and had both agreed to maintain an open dialogue throughout the whole process.  She concurred that the representative from NASUWT had already raised a number of concerns that she had with regard to the proposals for Barry and Bryn Hafren schools and that once the consultation had commenced both the Governing Bodies would be making full submissions during that process.  Mrs. Beaudette also raised concern regarding the school examples that had been used within the report to assist the development of the proposals as, in her view, they  did not mirror the challenges for Barry.  Mrs. Beaudette further stated that in her opinion the report had not also clearly accounted for the level of challenge associated with the kind of deprivation the Barry and Bryn Hafren schools have to currently  address.  It would also be essential that the management, government and leadership of the schools, together with the pastoral issues were carefully considered.  The level of uncertainty that would be created for handing over the school would also have an impact on staff, parents and Governing Bodies and the Council would need to minimise all risks. 

 

Mr. R. Evans, representing the Governing Body of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg, in referring to his written submission, advised that the Governing Body appreciated the commitment of the Vale of Glamorgan Council in seeking to further enhance the provision of Welsh medium education across the county and its aim to provide sufficient school places to cater for predicted future demand.  The Governing Body supported the proposals to move to the existing Bryn Hafren School site which they believed would provide sufficient space to develop a first class school for 3-19 year old pupils for generations to come.  The Governing Body, in taking that position, had adopted a set of principles which were outlined in his written representations.  The Governors were also confident he stated that they could continue to manage the changes required to ensure the school’s continued success for the benefit of current and future pupils.  The Governing Body had certainly realised he advised that the school  was part of a wider remit.  In his view Option D would appear to cater for the growth required and advised that the Governing Body would remain non-political throughout the process. 

 

The Elected Members who were not Members of the Committee were then afforded the opportunity to speak with the Committee’s permission.

 

Councillor Dr. I.J. Johnson commenced by seeking clarification of issues that had been raised with himself by local constituents.  Why was change required now?  Was there a real educational principle behind the need for change?  Is Option D the best solution or the one that best fits the financial circumstances of the Council?  Would Welsh Government funding be realised?  Pupils in Year 4 for English language would be affected in 2020 and what was the Council proposing as part of the consultation process to ensure that everybody in the private sector plays a part in the process?  The issue of size and the number of pupils on the site; the ability to teach on a large site and the facilities to be provided for pastoral care were also raised.  With regard to Bro Morgannwg and the Welsh medium provision his projections forecast that the school would reach capacity on the Bryn Hafren site by 2028.  He questioned officers and the Cabinet Member as to whether this issue had been considered in detail, for which the following responses were received.

 

The Head of Service advised that the consultation process would engage with pupils, staff and parents in the primary schools as it was the Council’s intention to engage with as many people as possible and to assist a number of workshops would be arranged.  With regard to pupil projections, considerable work had been undertaken on these.  Projections showed that if the current Welsh medium primary schools were all at full capacity in the future and 100% of the pupils fed through to Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg, 19,847 secondary school places would be required to accommodate them.  It was pointed out that it was unlikely that all of these spaces would be required as there was currently spare capacity in the primary sector and based on current trends, not all Welsh medium primary pupils fed into Bro Morgannwg.   

 

The Cabinet Member stated that it was his intention to ensure that a report would be brought back following the consultation to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet and with regard to Key Stage 4 issues and transition phasing, all these would be addressed whilst considering the process and options.  He reiterated that the issues for Bro Morgannwg needed to be addressed as the demands for Welsh medium education were increasing and the Council had a statutory responsibility to ensure provision was catered for. 

 

With regard to the issue of funding, the Head of Service advised that the Council had a good record on securing grant funding through the submission of business cases to Welsh Government and was considered to have a good reputation for delivery of the 21st Century Schools Programme.  Although the Council could not give a cast iron guarantee of funding, it did have a very good track record, a business case would be required to be developed which details all of the options considered as well as the preferred option and the Council would be required to demonstrate that the preferred option was the most cost effective. 

 

The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to thank all present for their willingness to engage and again reiterated that it was the start of the process and not the end. 

 

In referring to the question of why change, the Director for Learning and Skills advised that in terms of the culture and social development of the town, providing co-education was seen as most desirable with both parents and pupils saying co-education was their preferred option.  Through research it was also an accepted fact that with better buildings educational outcomes benefited.  Salford University research particularly outlined that there could be a 16% increase in performance as a result of good classrooms, which the Director stated the Council did not have in all three schools.  With regard to school size, there was also no reason to believe that classroom sizes would increase.  In referring to creating the sense of a smaller learning community in a large arena, she advised of American research that was available for the Council to consider.   Bryn Hafren also had a level of specialist facilities that would be available for further opportunities for courses of study which would also need to be considered in line with the new curriculum Donaldson Report. 

 

In referring to statutory consultation, the Head of Service advised that the Council  was required to consult on all proposals which needed to include details of the options that were to be precluded.

 

The Chairman thanked all present for their representations, for providing evidence to the Scrutiny Committee and for their commitment to engage with the consultation process. 

 

In considering the evidence, a Member referred to the considerable amount of time and discussions that had been undertaken in considering the option for co-education, and noted the proposed timetable as outlined at Appendix G to the report. It was noted that the consultation period was proposed to commence on 11th May 2015 until 6th July 2015. 

 

A number of Members concluded that the time was right to move to co-education and accepted that for Bro Morgannwg the issue of new Welsh medium education needed to be addressed and developed.  Concerns were however raised about the transition phase with Members stating that it was important to ensure that this was handled as best as possible for the pupils, staff and the school.  A Member of the Committee’s School Places Task Group reminded Members that at that time the Group had also agreed that co-education should be considered.

 

In response to a concern regarding the limited response received to the initial consultation and whether there was a minimum requirement to make a second consultation valid, the Cabinet Member confirmed that there was no requirement regarding minimum or maximum responses but that for the next consultation, he would urge everyone far and wide to provide responses. The Council would also be engaging with all the primary schools in the area. 

 

Following a query, from the Chairman, to the response of the consultation being that no change should be made, the Cabinet Member confirmed that the administration of the Council would not ignore the issue for Bro Morgannwg and would as a result subsequently have to request support from Welsh Government.  He advised that the current Bro Morgannwg site had been built for what was currently there and that, if it proposed  that the school should be altered to accommodate numbers, the Council may need to demolish the building and consider the foundations which would be a far greater financial burden than the Council may be able to agree to.  He also confirmed that the Council needed to meet the demands for Welsh medium education within the county and that it was not an option to send pupils outside of county. 

 

A Member raised concern regarding the costs associated with adapting a building that was old and the ongoing maintenance costs advising that the Council should not dismiss any school out of hand.  However, Committee was advised that the cost of a new build would be in the region of £65m and the money was just not available.

 

Members also queried whether any new housing developments proposed had been included in the projections and in particular the numbers associated with the  Waterfront development.   The Head of Service stated that the projections for new developments had been taken into account as well as data on the cohorts which would be feeding into the school from the primary sector in the future.  The figures had therefore been based on facts and trends.

 

Having considered the report and the evidence presented the Scrutiny Committee unanimously

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)      T H A T resolutions (1), (2) and (4) of Cabinet min no C2662 be noted.

 

(2)      T H A T the consultation for the following proposals be endorsed.:

 

          (i)       The creation of a new 2,400 place mixed English medium comprehensive school through the amalgamation of Barry Comprehensive School and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School located on the two current sites from September 2017.

 

          (ii)      The expansion of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg from 1,151 places to 1,857 places from September 2020 to meet the increased demand for places.

 

          (iii)      The relocation of the new English medium secondary school to the site currently occupied by Barry Comprehensive School , Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg from September 2020, creating a single campus for the school.

 

          (iv)     The relocation of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg to the new Welsh medium campus on the current Bryn Hafren site from September 2020.

 

(3)      T H A T the establishment of a Barry Secondary School Transformation Board including representatives of the three secondary schools and from the primary sector be agreed.

 

(4)      T H A T, following the consultation process, a further report be presented to  the Scrutiny Committee on the results of the consultation, prior to consideration by Cabinet.

 

(5)      T H A T the views of the Scrutiny Committee, as outlined in the minutes, and the written representations received to date be forwarded to Cabinet for consideration.

 

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  In view of the evidence provided at the meeting and in recognition of the Committees view.

 

(3)      To ensure effective governance and management of the proposed project..

 

(4)      For further consideration by the Scrutiny Committee and in order that the views of the Scrutiny Committee can be conveyed to Cabinet prior to consideration of the report.

 

(5)      To advise Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee’s views and the written representations received to date.

 

 

N.B.  Mr. G. Beaudette and Mrs. T. Young withdrew from the meeting whilst this item was under consideration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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