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Agenda Item No. 5

 

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 16 MARCH 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 23 FEBRUARY 2015

 

C2662            BARRY SECONDARY SCHOOL TRANSFORMATION (CSS) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – LIFELONG LEARNING AND CORPORATE RESOURCES) -     

 

Approval was sought to consult stakeholders on a proposal to transform secondary education in Barry:-

 

i.   by establishing a new mixed English-medium comprehensive school;

ii.  by expanding Ysgol Bro Morgannwg; and

iii. by relocation to create two distinct campuses for Welsh-medium and English-medium education.

 

The case for the establishment of mixed sex secondary provision in Barry had been debated intermittently over many years. Interest had increased in recent years and following a Cabinet decision on 15 July, 2013, public consultation was undertaken in 2013 to establish the extent of local support for the principle of co-education in Barry. 

 

The consultation sought to establish local views about the establishment of a coeducational school formed by the amalgamation of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools which would operate on the two current sites. In total 951 people 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 indicated 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; again 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.

Cabinet considered the responses to consultation at their meeting on 16 December, 2013.  In response to the consultation, Cabinet instructed officers to begin a programme of work to develop detailed proposals for a change to coeducational secondary schooling and that the detailed proposals should address the concerns raised by those parents and members of school staff who felt they would not support a change.  Members agreed that the proposals should be subject to further in-depth consultation with parents and other key stakeholders including Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning). 

 

Cabinet established a Project Board to progress the work required to develop detailed proposals for an amalgamation. The Project Board was chaired by the Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools and comprised senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate, Headteachers, chairs of governors and governor representatives from both schools and the Chair of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.

 

Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg were federated in September 2012 under a single governing body and Headteacher. The Council recently consulted on a proposal to amalgamate Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg and Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg to create a new all through school from September 2015. Following Cabinet's consideration of the results of the consultation a statutory notice was published on 6 January, 2015 to amalgamate the schools. Cabinet would make a final decision on the proposal in March 2015. Given the two schools were currently federated with the possibility of amalgamating later this year, they were considered together throughout the report.

 

The capacity of Barry, Bryn Hafren and Bro Morgannwg schools and the numbers on roll at the Pupil Level Annual Schools Survey (PLASC) 2014 as well as projected pupil numbers were shown in Appendix A attached to the report.

 

The number on roll at Barry Comprehensive in January 2014 was 1,062 including a 6th form of 197, compared to a current capacity of 1,423. The number on roll at Bryn Hafren Comprehensive was 1,106 including a 6th form of 256, compared to a capacity of 1,331. Whilst both schools had a considerable surplus capacity at present, it was forecast to reduce in future years as larger pupil cohorts feed into the schools from the primary sector. The projections showed estimated pupil numbers for the two schools of 2,388 by 2025 compared to a joint capacity of 2,754.

 

The projections showed a shortage of places in the Welsh medium secondary sector from 2020 onwards which was reported to Cabinet on 10 March, 2014 (minute ref C2235). Cabinet resolved that, 'the request to carry out a feasibility study to investigate how the required expansion of Welsh medium secondary education can be accommodated is approved'.

 

Property condition surveys had recently been carried out for all Vale Schools. The inspections comprised a visual assessment of the condition of all exposed parts of the buildings to identify significant defects and items of disrepair. The three comprehensive school buildings were generally in a satisfactory condition with some elements in poor condition exhibiting major defects. Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg was accommodated in a new building which opened in September 2014.

 

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 attached to the report showed the outcomes for the three schools against these key measures over a period of 4 years as well as the quartile ranking when compared to similar schools.

 

Co-education and amalgamation

 

The Project Board began its work in February 2014 to develop detailed proposals for a change to co-educational secondary schooling.  At outset the following key outcomes of successful amalgamation were identified by the Project Board.  Any options for amalgamation should be evaluated to determine whether they would deliver these key outcomes.

  • Excellent standards for all children.
  • School of choice for parents and children across the region and beyond.
  • A strong identity as one school with reputation for high standards; innovative learning; international focus and learning experience.
  • Each individual child is supported and challenged to achieve excellence.
  • Community values and uses the resource all year round.

The Project Board considered the arguments for and against co-education.  They considered a range of sources of information and a number of arguments including the academic argument, the social argument and the cognitive/ psychological argument.  They noted the OFSTED report, gender and education: the evidence on pupils in England (DfES 2007) concluded 'The jury was still out on the impact of single sex schooling on educational attainment.  Several international reviews had failed to identify consistent or strong findings for single sex education'.  They noted that most secondary schools in Wales were mixed with just two pairs of single sex schools, including the Barry schools, continuing to operate as single sex schools.  They also noted the responses to consultation in 2013 about the principle of establishing a mixed school through the amalgamation of Barry and Bryn Hafren schools and that the parents of Barry had given a strong indication that the majority wanted coeducation in their town.

 

As part of the work carried out by the Project Board to further develop proposals, research was carried out on amalgamations and split site education which included desktop analysis as well as telephone and face to face interviews with leaders involved in recent, mixed gender amalgamations and spilt-site schools. In all cases, examples were sought which matched as closely as possible the demographic, social and educational context of Barry and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive Schools. Some outstanding examples were identified showing successful amalgamations of single sex schools resulting in more successful learning outcomes for pupils. It was significant to note that some schools in very difficult circumstances had merged and were achieving outstanding academic and other results.

 

Research conducted on the performance of large secondary schools with pupil numbers in excess of 2,200 revealed that whilst the number of maintained schools falling within this category was small the percentage L2+ achieved by these schools was higher than that presently achieved by both Barry and Bryn Hafren (refer to Appendix E attached to the report). For example, Ivybridge Community College in Devon with 2,354 pupils achieved 77% L2+ in 2012/13 and Thomas Hardye School in Dorset with 2,233 pupils achieved 60% L2+ in the same year. Whitchurch Secondary School which is the largest secondary school in Wales with 2,235 pupils achieved 60% L2+ in 2012/13 and the largest secondary school in the Vale, Stanwell Comprehensive School with 2,006 pupils, achieved 74.5% L2+ that year.  

 

In this context it was established that there were potential educational benefits to be gained by the amalgamation of Barry and Bryn Hafren comprehensive schools to create a new mixed comprehensive school.  It was clear that standards at the two schools needed to be further increased, that amalgamated schools in similar circumstances were successful, that a large size was not a driver of low standards and that there was strong support from parents and pupils for the creation of a mixed school through amalgamation.

 

It should also be noted that there had been some examples of failed amalgamations from time to time.  Effective leadership and governance is vital to ensure that the benefits are delivered through the development of a strong new ethos and culture for the school and that the risk of failure and a distraction from high quality teaching and learning is minimised.

 

It had been concluded that amalgamation to create a mixed comprehensive English-medium school was highly desirable in order to support the raising of educational standards in the town and to respond to the views of parents and pupils to the earlier consultation. The report outlined the below options in further detail that considered the way in which amalgamation to create a mixed comprehensive school can best be delivered.

  • Option A: The new English medium school operates as a split site school organised according to key stages and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on its current site
  •  Option B: The new English-medium school operates as a split site school organised according to pupil houses and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on its current site
  • Option C: Two separate English medium schools on separate sites and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on its current site
  • Option D: One English medium school on one site and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on the current Bryn Hafren site
  • Option E: One English medium school on one site (new build) and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on its current site
  • Option F: Federation of the two English medium schools and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg is expanded on its current site
  • Option G: Status Quo

Following an assessment of each option the Board identified option D as the preferred model. The principal advantages of this model; were identified as:

  • A clear, separate and new identity for a new flagship English-medium school.
  • Provides a larger site for Bro Morgannwg and Nant Talwg enabling remodelling of school buildings to more effectively support the development of 3-19 all through education and the expansion of Welsh medium secondary school places.  The new discrete campus would assist the school to immerse pupils in a Welsh-language setting and to further develop a centre of excellence in education through the medium of Welsh.
  • A single, coherent geographical and educational solution for all four schools involved in the change. None of the headteachers interviewed in the research would have chosen a split site alternative above a single site.
  • No travel for staff and students between the sites of the English medium school. No interruption at the end of key stage 3. All students join one school at the beginning of their secondary education and complete this on one campus which enables improved progression throughout their secondary career.
  • Provided flexibility for any further expansion of Welsh medium provision.
  • Ensures the different communities of Barry are accommodated in a single English medium school.
  • Single school leadership and governance will favour high school standards at the new English medium school.
  • Single, coherent curriculum for the new English medium school.  Students have access to a potentially increased range of curricular opportunities as a result of the amalgamated school with staff and resources on one campus.
  • Ensured staff at the new English medium school could continue to teach across the full age range addressing concerns raised in response to the initial consultation about the potential impact of the split site model on continuing professional development opportunities.
  • A cost effective solution that enhanced English and Welsh medium secondary education.
  • The new English medium school would be well placed to develop a partnering arrangement, for example with a higher education institution if an appropriate partner was identified.

The principal disadvantages of the preferred model include:

  • The creation of a very large English medium school which would require excellent leadership.
  • The relocation of four schools which would require careful planning to minimise disruption and the potential impact on learning.
  • It was reliant on Welsh Government capital funding.

Transition arrangements

 

As set out in paragraph 15 of the report, clear outcomes were established for the amalgamation of the English medium school which included excellent standards for all students and a popular school with a strong identity and innovative learning. Given these outcomes, particularly those of raising standards and expectations, the Project Board considered it important to amalgamate the single sex schools as soon as practicable. Given that the favoured option requires significant investment it would not be possible to commence the main programme of required building works until new Welsh Government grant funding becomes available through Band B of the 21st Century Schools Programme which was scheduled to start in 2019.

 

A transition towards full integration of the single sex schools was developed with clear milestones and was considered to offer a way forward with pupils joining the school, entering the sixth form or embarking on GCSE courses being the first to benefit from coeducational learning. Whilst the details of some of the arrangements would require further consideration by the new Governing Body this was likely to include:

  • Formal amalgamation from September 2017 on separate sites with a single governing body and Headteacher.
  • A fully integrated 6th form from September 2017 based at the Barry Comprehensive school site.
  • A fully integrated year 7 from September 2017 based at the Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School site.
  • A fully integrated year 10 from September 2017 based at the Barry Comprehensive School site.
  • From September 2018, fully integrated years 7 and 8 based at the Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School site and years 10 and 11 based at the Barry Comprehensive School site.
  • From September 2019, fully integrated years 7, 8 and 9 based at the Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School site and years 10 and 11 based at the Barry Comprehensive School site.
  • Provided that funding had been secured from Welsh Government, from September 2020, all integrated year groups to be located on one site. 

Existing students would continue to be taught in single sex groups in most subjects until they start secondary school, embark on a GCSE course or join the sixth form. For example, from September 2017, years 8, 9 and 11 would be taught as single sex groups at their current school sites and by the following September only year 9 would continue to be taught in single year groups.

 

In September 2020 subject to Welsh Government funding having been made available, the students of Ysgol Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Nant Talwg would move to remodelled and extended accommodation, including new primary accommodation, on the Bryn Hafren site and the students of the amalgamated English medium school would move into the remodelled accommodation on the Barry Comprehensive and Bro Morgannwg/Nant Talwg site.

 

To facilitate transformation investment in the region of £35.650M would be made across all sites to ensure that all pupils had access to educational facilities which were fit for the 21st century. An amount of £750k would be made available in 2016/17 to address essential requirements required for coeducational provision at the Barry and Bryn Hafren buildings. The remaining £34.8M would be required from 2019 onwards to carry the condition works detailed in paragraph 10, modernisation and expansion work and provision of a new primary school building for Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg. A full break down of the work which would be carried out and the estimated costs was shown in Appendix F attached to the report. In the event that Welsh Government capital funding was not available investment would be made to expand Ysgol Bro Morgannwg on its current site and to address condition issues at Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren schools.

Statutory Process

 

In order to amalgamate the two schools the Council would need to comply with the statutory process detailed in the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and outlined below.

 

A consultation document must be provided to all interested parties allowing a minimum of six weeks to respond, the consultation period must include a minimum of 20 school days. Meetings would be held during the consultation period to provide additional information as requested and would include meetings with parents, pupil representatives, governing bodies and staff of the relevant schools.

 

Within three months of the closing date for the consultation period a consultation report would be published including a summary of comments received and the Council's response to these comments.

 

The Council must then decide whether or not to proceed with the proposal within six months of the end of the consultation period. If following the consultation process the Council decides that the amalgamation of Barry Comprehensive School and Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School is to be progressed a statutory notice would be published providing 28 days for objections. The notice must be published on a school day and with 15 school days included within the notice period.

 

In addition to the amalgamation proposal, statutory notices would be required for the transfer of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg and Ysgol Gymraeg Nant Talwg to the Bryn Hafren School site and for an increase in the capacity of Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg from 1,151 to 1,847 places to meet future pupil demand. A statutory notice is not required for the phased relocation of pupils onto one site resulting from the amalgamation proposal. 

 

If objections were received, an objection report must be published with a summary of the objections and the Council's response before the end of 7 days beginning with the day of its determination.

 

Appendix G attached to the report set out the anticipated timescale for this process if approved by Cabinet.

 

To enable effective engagement and communication with the schools directly affected by this proposal it was suggested that a Barry Secondary School Transformation Board be established. Membership of the Board would 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 chair of the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee and senior officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate would also be members of the Board.

 

The proposals had a number of wider ranging implications which naturally arose in these circumstances, including for example, staffing and property issues.  Appropriate support in relation to these implications was being drawn and would continue to be drawn from the Council's corporate functions as and when necessary.

 

At the meeting the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools and highlighted paragraph 51 of the report that confirmed that the English Medium comprehensive sixth form would be integrated. He further commented that these changes were challenging however, he believed that these were the best options for consultation, but stressed that no decision had been made.

 

This was a matter for Executive decision

 

RESOLVED –

 

(1)       T H A T the consultation that had taken place thus far along with the potential benefits of amalgamating Barry and Bryn Hafren comprehensive schools be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the principle of creating a new mixed English-medium comprehensive school for Barry be endorsed.

 

(3)       T H A T consultation takes place from 11 May, 2015 for a period of 8 weeks on the following proposals:

 

            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 1,847 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 a new Welsh-medium campus on the current Bryn Hafren site from September 2020.

 

(4)       T H A T it be noted that the implementation of the proposals would be subject to consideration of responses to consultation, to the relevant statutory processes and with respect to recommendations iii and iv above to the availability of capital funding from Welsh Government.

 

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

 

(6)       T H A T  the report be referred to the Scrutiny Committees (Lifelong Learning) and Corporate Resources) for consideration.

 

(7)       T H A T following consultation Cabinet receive a consultation report detailing the responses received and considered whether or not to publish the relevant statutory notices.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1)       To note the work that had been completed.

 

(2)       To establish the in principle view of Cabinet.

 

(3)       To assess the level of support for the proposals to transform secondary education in Barry as outlined above.

 

(4)       To clarify the key constraints on the decision-making process.

 

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

 

(6)       To ensure that the Scrutiny Committees (Lifelong Learning and Corporate Resources) were aware of and comment on the reorganisation and investment proposals.

 

(7)       To comply with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013.

 

  

Attached as Appendix – Report to Cabinet – 23 FEBRUARY 2015

 

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