First Minister officially opens award winning Penarth Learning Community
21 March 2016
The First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has today officially opened the Penarth Learning Community, the £50m home of St Cyres Comprehensive School and Ysgol Y Deri special school in Penarth.
The new home for the two schools brings together the diverse learning environments for special educational needs alongside secondary school learning. As the first of its kind the project has won a string of design awards since it opened to pupils in the autumn of 2014, including Project of the Year at the Constructing Excellence in Wales Awards 2015 and the Best Inclusive Building in Wales by the Local Authority Building Control group.
Ahead of the official ceremony the First Minister was given a tour of the two school buildings by Cllr Chris Elmore, the Vale of Glamorgan Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, who highlighted some of first class features on offer to pupils.
The learning community, which was built as part of the 21st Century schools investment programme, houses both schools in its main building. St Cyres Comprehensive occupies one half of the site and features sector leading multimedia facilities. Ysgol Y Deri occupies the other side and provides state of the art special educational needs provision, including hydrotherapy pools, sensory rooms, physiotherapy suites, and a fully functioning television production studio.
The First Minister said: “We want all young people to be learning in modern and vibrant environments - the Penarth Learning Community is a shining example of that ambition. We’re delighted to have part funded this development through our 21st Century Schools and Education programme, I hope the students, teachers and everyone who has access to this fantastic building will enjoy it long into the future.”
Cllr Chris Elmore, said: “The Vale of Glamorgan Council’s school investment programme continues to reshape the way in which we provide education for our children in primary, secondary, and special schools. The completion of the Penarth Learning Community marked a key milestone in our work to deliver the Council’s vision of improved education for all.
“Thanks to the joint investment by the Welsh Government and the Vale of Glamorgan Council these two schools boast some of the best facilities in Wales. What’s more, these buildings are not only first class learning environments, they were designed to meet the needs of the town as a whole and by opening them up to local residents we have established a true learning community.”
During the tour the First Minister was interviewed by two Ysgol Y Deri pupils in their in-house television studio, and both politicians were put on the spot by St Cyres’ politics students.
Chris Britten, headteacher of Ysgol Y Deri, said: “Thanks to the vision of the local authority and the support of Welsh government our pupils benefit from the best facilities in the country.
“This enables the fabulous staff we have to support the pupils’ learning and improve their life chances. The co-location with a secondary school has also realised great benefits to pupils in both schools.
“We now look forward to going from strength to strength in the years ahead.”
Dr Jonathan Hicks, headteacher of St Cyres School, said: “The move to our new school building has enabled us to put into action all the plans we have for 21st Century learning.
"Each pupil in the school now has a school iPad which gives them access to the latest digital learning resources. All subject areas benefit from the latest educational design and resources, and we are on-course for our best-ever GCSE results this summer.
"Our pupils truly are proud of this exceptional facility, and the community has responded to our vision of the facilities being available for hire after school and at weekends. We have also seen a leap in the number of admissions and our September 2016 Year 7 intake is already over-subscribed.”
The Penarth Learning Community facilities are available for use by the public, and so provide modern sports facilities, including a 3G pitch, for the local community, and other specialist areas for families and carers looking after adults and children with special needs.