Not suitable for a two form entry school?

When Leighton Andrews said that he felt unable to make the decision on the future of Lansdowne, Radnor and Treganna schools in Cardiff and passed the decision to the First Minister instead, it was a clear sign that the decision would be controversial. The proposal has today been refused.


There has been a whole host of options put forward over several years, but the current proposal was to move the Welsh-medium Treganna into the premises of English-medium Lansdowne (which has more space than they need) and to make the current site shared by Radnor and Treganna (shown above, Radnor on the left) into a larger EM school that would be able to house the pupils displaced from Lansdowne, since Radnor also has surplus space.

The maths for that didn't quite work, except when you took into account the number of children that attend Lansdowne and Radnor from outside their catchment areas, and the number of surplus spaces in the other two EM schools in Canton. Taking those factors into account, the maths did work.

The picture below shows Lansdowne in the top left corner and Radnor/Treganna in the bottom right. The two sites are only a few hundred metres apart, so no child would be particularly inconvenienced because of travel distance.


As I write this, the decision document has not yet been published on the Welsh Government's website. But from this report on Golwg360, the core of the decision seems to be that the two buildings of an enlarged Radnor school (i.e the existing EM school and the current premises of Treganna on the same site) would "not be suitable" for a two form entry school. That seems strange to me. What I can say is that the numbers add up. Taken from Cardiff's Asset Management Plan 2008, the capacity of Radnor is 288 and of Treganna 169 = 457. Even allowing for Treganna's overcrowding, there are still more than the 420 places required for a 2FE school.

But perhaps the combined site is unsuitable for another reason. If this is the case, I can only say that if the combined Radnor/Treganna premises are deemed to be unsuitable for two form entry English-medium school, I am 100% sure that the teachers, parents and governors of Treganna would jump at the chance of using the combined site for a two form entry Welsh-medium school. Those wanting an expansion of Welsh-medium education have become well used to having to make do with the cast-offs and hand-me-downs left when English-medium schools have moved out of unsuitable buildings.

Update - 16:45

The decision letter and a statement of relevant information has now been published on the Welsh Government website:

     Decision Letter
     Statement of Information

I've read the letter and am amazed by the decision. It appears to make several assumptions that are severely flawed, and it does indeed give one of the reasons for refusal as being that the combined Radnor/Treganna site is too small for a 420 pupil school. The tone of the letter is frankly condescending and the First Minister washes his hands of any responsibility to even suggest a solution, saying it is entirely up to Cardiff to sort the problem out urgently. Kafka couldn't have written a more contrived plot.

I'll write more later.

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Anonymous said...

i am a former pupil at treganna having left the school 8 yerars ago ots appalling appalling desicion the council get the blame what an absoulute mess

Anonymous said...

Didn't the Android recuse himself from this decision because he lives in Cardiff?

Plaid Panteg said...

Hi MH,

Must say I think the decision is wrong. In my ward, Panteg, we have had a Welsh Medium (Ysgol Panteg - which you have covered), which has meant the English medium infant school has moved 100m to the EM Primary.

Anonymous said...

Can't trust Labour on the Welsh language.

There was need to satisfy both 'camps' (I don't like to say words like that) but Labour failed. They failed to sort this out when they were in power and now they're playing petty politics with the LD and PC when they have to deal with the situation.

All the good work done by Leighton Andrews now seems like spin.

I though Labour had moved on. They had me fooled for a while.

D Hughes said...

It is a scandalous decision. It's fine for Welsh pupils to be taught in inadequate, crumbling buildings and overcrowded classrooms but not English medium kids. Shame on Carwyn Jones, Rhodri Morgan and Labour for this, shame on them.

Anonymous said...

This was a clear political decision by Labour and to use the excuse that Radnor could not act as a 2 form of entry EM is laughable. It is currently two one form of entry schools which apparently is acceptable to Labour. They can't have it both ways.
They have taken months to make no decision at all and many parents who were considering WM education for their children, will now choose otherwise as the facilities will not be up to it.
Labour have yet agian put the boot into the Welsh language-disgusting.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous asked 'Didn't the Android recuse himself from this decision because he lives in Cardiff?'

No - his children went to Treganna. For him to take the decision would have been a clear conflict of interest.

With regard to the decision itself, it is clearly educationally, not politically based. Carwyn Jones sends educates his children in a Welsh medium school, so it's pretty obvious that he is pro not anti-Welsh medium.

The blog writer's own support for Welsh medium education is commendable. His total disregard for the interests of children in English medium education is not. The site at Radnor/Treganna is unsuitable for 420 children let alone the 575 that Cardiff wished to relocate there. The fact that around 400 English and Welsh medium children are already taught there is a disgrace. It is now down to Cardiff to come up with proposals that are properly formulated and protect the interests of all children, no matter what language medium their parents have chosen for them.

Anonymous said...

Some campaigners have for over two years been highlighting that Cardiff's proposal to close Lansdowne was a weak proposal with key blind spots. Did the Council listen? No, it didn't. It carried on regardless. The Assembly letter issued today highlights that the Council (a) failed to address points raised in consultation exercises; (b) could not provide convincing information on how its proposal could be implemented;(c) confirmed that 575 pupils would be placed on a <420 capacity site; (d)that the impacts of transition on English-medium pupils would endure for up to 6 years; and (e) would deliver benefits to some pupils at the expense of other pupils. I am pleased that the Assembly kicked out a plainly weak and badly thought out proposal...

Anonymous said...

The report stated that the Council did everything 100% correctly. Labour opposed everything; every option. They are nihilists who hate the Welsh language. Labour Treganna councillors called WME ethnic cleansing and apartheid. Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

I see the "local" mosque and islamists played the race card quite predictably. We are to assume therefore that Labour value diversity and the need to deal with the fact that foreign parents want to bring their kids up only in foreign languages, such as punjabi and urdu, thereby expecting the school system to plug the english language gap in their childrens' education, more than Wales' native tongue. That is quite apart from the narrow and selfish political motivation.

Anonymous said...

Councillor Neil McEvoy of Cardiff Council has suggested going back to an earlier proposal according to today's that transfers Lansdowne to a one form entry, new build school. That will be the one that very few supported and that he himself voted against in Cabinet, then? If that is the best they can come up with, aside from the fact it shows a continuing failure to listen and learn, then I would not hold out much hope for an effective solution coming forward soon...

Anonymous said...

What are Labour suggesting Neil McEvoy, PC and LD in Cardiff City Council do? Bury their heads like Labour did for years, allowing LD and PC to inherit an unstable and unsatisfactory situation?

How do Labour - Rhodri Morgan, Carwyn Jones, Labour councillors in Cardiff propose accommodating the over-subscribed (and possibly illegal overcrowding in Treganna and Melin Gruffydd)?

It's alright running a whispering campaign against 'the Welsh' or 'Welshies'. And I also feel for the parents and kids in Landsdown and Eglwys Wen and Eglwys Newydd EM schools who are attached to those schools. But we have a situation of empty spaces in some schools (which happen to be EM) and overcrowding in others (WM).

Money is tight - thanks to Labour's mismanagement of the economy, people won't pay more taxes, no answer is satisfactory and some are taking the nilhistic grownd-standing of not wanting any change.

Please Labour - give us some answers, who didn't you sort this out years ago? What would you do?

Rhodri Morgan, Carwyn Jones, Kevin Brennan. Some answers please!

Efrogwr said...

Anon 11:08 -
I share your sentiment but no point asking Labour for answers. When did they ever come up with a serious, creative, positive policy on any aspect of Welsh language policy? It's always division, obstruction and finally a few concessions, too little, too late.

Lyndon said...

An absolutely astonishing example of naked political cynicism: 36 hours later and I'm still absolutely seething.

Under what we should now call the "Jones Doctrine", that any school reorganisation should bring IMMEDIATE benefits to ALL pupils, any future school reorganisations are impossible. Certainly there is absolutely no point in Cardiff Council pursuing the Whitchurch reorganisation, they should just drop it straight away.

As Carwyn has also effectively ruled out the obvious alternative in Canton (closure of Radnor Road school) the council has no obvious course of action. They must therefore immediately begin consultations on meeting the shortfall in WM school places by the construction of two brand new, state of the art WM primaries, one on the Ely Bridge site in Canton and the other at the Heol Don site in Whitchurch. Carwyn will obviously be happy to pay for these from his capital budget.

Anonymous said...

Re: your detailed post today on pupil numbers etc. I'm sure that there are more than 28 pupils at Tan yr Eos - that might have been last year. It's more like 50 now.

MH said...

Anon 23:59, I got the figure wrong. It should be 26. However all the figures for pupil numbers are from PLASC as at January 2009. I wanted to stick to the official figures throughout.

For Tan yr Eos, yes, there will be another year's intake now. Probably 15, as the capacity then was 30 over two year groups.


As a general note, sorry I haven't commented on the comments as yet. I lost a back-up and am re-working a response to the decision letter.

Anonymous said...

Its time to get Plaid organised and supported by sensible local people in Canton. Then we can get rid of the absolutly awful local councillors.They are the block heads who have got us to these rediculous position.

Anonymous said...

Lyndon said 'An absolutely astonishing example of naked political cynicism'

No, you are totally wrong. I can assure you that the decision was 100% educationally based. It would have been far easier, politically speaking, to have approved the proposal, but it was educationally, and consequently legally, unsound. The Treganna/Radnor site is too small for the children who are currently educated there. Transferring 190 or so Welsh medium pupils off site and replacing them with three hundred or so English medium pupils would have made a bad decision even worse. The only thing for which I would criticise WAG is the length of time taken to reach a decision.

The alternative and original proposal of closing Radnor Primary School and expanding Treganna was a far more logical one, however Cardiff's administration decided not to pursue it for (political?) reasons best known to itself. Carywn Jones' letter does not rule out the resurrection of that proposal but it does mean that Treganna could not be established as a 420 school. I would suggest that Cardiff's best option might be to close Radnor, expand Treganna to a one and a half form entry (315 place)school in order to address the current lack of adequate facilities and pupil places, and and then open a new WM school in Grangetown to ease pressue on both Treganna and Pwll Coch. However, this proposal has its own difficulties, not least the fact that over the past few years the pupil numbers at Canton's English medium school have been surging upwards (the January 2010 PLASC figures will show a big increase) as a consequence of a rapid and previously unforseen rise the area's birthrate. To put it simply, the surplus capacity in the local English medium schools is diappearing very rapidly, and in the not too distant future, three 420 English medium schools may not be sufficient to accommodate in-catchment demand.

On a final point, I think it very unlikely that Cardiff will seek a judicial review. Not only would these lose their case (and alot of public money) the process would expose serious failings in their own organisation.

MH said...

Thanks for the comments. In general terms I must say that I am shocked by the decision. I never imagined it could be refused simply because the justification in terms of numbers is so overwhelming.

However I do not think there is anything to be gained from personalizing any criticism of the decision. That's not to say that there aren't elements of personality involved, but only to say that it isn't a constructive way of solving the problem. Neither do I really want to get into a discussion centred around "Labour's attitude stinks, and it always has" for exactly the same reason: that it won't move things forward.

I'm just as angry as some of the people who have left comments. But I don't want to merely vent it in a show of temper. I want to use my anger as a spur to resolve this problem ... and also perhaps solve the general problem of the mechanism by which EM school buildings with lots of surplus places can be used for WM schools in response to parental demand. Because this is not an isolated incident.


What Anon 21:08 said might have relevance if the numbers he used were justified. But I can find no possible way by which anyone could arrive at a total of 575 children being squeezed into an enlarged Radnor. S/he says it is a "disgrace" that 400 children are taught there. The number is right. There are 217 in Radnor and 193 in Treganna, a total of 410. But the official capacity of Radnor is 288, so the real disgrace is that there are 71 empty places in Radnor's premises, but that Treganna is overcrowded by 24. The official capacity of both buildings together is 457.


Anon 23:23 raises a number of issues which I've dealt with elsewhere. But in summary

a) I think the Council did address the issues, and that this solution is not perfect in that it answered every single one, but was a reasonable and fair compromise between the range of issues involved.

b) Although that's what one part of the letter says, another part contradicts it.

c) the 575 is what the letter says Cardiff told them, but I can find not justification for that figure. It is vastly exaggerated and does not take other factors into account.

d) yes, everything will sort itself out after 6 years. But the scale of the problem is exaggerated (as c) and the way the transition could be properly handled (in b) has not been taken into account

e) That isn't quite true, it would deliver benefits to those in WM education, because they are already in cramped and overcrowded condition. The change would mean that EM will no longer enjoy the surplus space they now have. But that hardly "disadvantages" them ... it just makes things more equal for both WM and EM.

MH said...

As for the issues of diversity, yes, it is fair to recognize that families whose first language is neither English nor Welsh will most likely want their children educated in an EM school. But they are not being threated any differently from any other family that chooses an EM education for their childen for other reasons. So, whatever the ethnic background, all families that choose and EM education for their children are being treated fairly and equally by this proposal. At present all four EM schools in Canton have a surplus of space, but the WM sector is overcrowded. This proposal merely equalizes things so that no child has to go to an overcrowded school.


Yes, building a new school (whether as WM or EM) is a simple answer. But the numbers do not require a new school to be built to solve the problem. The problem can be solved by making better use of the buildings that already exist.


Anon 13:17 repeats a number of points made before and the answers are the same.

As for the alternative for moving children from Radnor and allowing Treganna to expand into the old radnor building, I agree that it is a good option. It would involve less disruption. But that was what was proposed in 2006 and rejected by the then Welsh Government. This proposal was better in terms of numbers because Lansdowne has a capacity of 420, but Radnor and Treganna have a combined capacity of 457. The advantage of the proposal that has just been rejected is that it resulted in more EM places and fewer WM places.

As I see it, the idea that the Radnor/Treganna site is too small for 420 pupils anyway is itself unjustified. Most older school buildings are not up to modern standards, so it is wrong to apply this criterion to just this one school. The official capacity figures are what matter.

I'd challenge you to justify what you've just said about PLASC 2010 with hard evidence.

As for the judicial review, I think there are enough fundamental flaws in the decision to justify overturning it with a judicial review. But I wouldn't rule out quicker ways of solving the problem. A decision which many people (in fact every party except Labour, to be blunt) see as politically motivated can be changed (or an alternative solution found) by the application of political pressure. As I said right at the start, if people want to justify this decision on the grounds that the Radnor/Teganna site is not as good as the Lansdowne site—and if they are so outraged about EM children being "disadvantaged" by Radnor/Treganna becoming an EM school—I am sure that the parents, teachers and governors at Treganna will jump at enlargement into the Radnor building instead.

Anonymous said...

MH - The NOR figures for the Canton EM schools for Jan 2010 are as follows - they are taken from Cardiff's own website:

Radnor - 237
Lansdowne - 327 + 63 p/t nursery
Kitchener - 379 + 88 p/t nursery
Severn - 389 + 105 p/t nursery

These are significantly up on 2009. Crucially, amongst the rising four age group, there are 212 nursery pupils on roll. If these are carried forward through the 7 years of mainstream primary education you will end up with 1484 pupils on roll at the Canton EM schools. That is well above the combined capacity of 3 two-form entry schools. I appreciate that some of these pupils will be 'out of Canton' pupils and cannot therefore expect to have a place at a Canton school, but as I understand it (admittedly on the basis of anecdotal evidence) the proportion of Canton children is very high. I hope this goes some way to meeting the challenge you issued.

By the way, I undertstand that the figure of 575 quoted by WAG is one which Cardiff provided and is based on the expected combined total of Lansdowne and Radnor pupils at the proposed date of implementation. It includes 30 FTE nursery pupils. Whether or not the figure is correct, I couldn't say. I guess it depends on the accuracy of Cardiff's pupil forecasting.

I also have to say that you seem to have misunderstood the rationale for the decision. The primary reason for the rejection was that the outside area of the Treganna/Radnor site is far too small for a 420 place school. Pupil capacities are based on the space within buildings. They take no account of outdoor space. For guidance on the latter you have to refer to the relevant building bulletins. The introduction of the foundation phase, and its emphasis on outdoor activities, means that the significance of outdoor space has increased sharply. Whilst I am sure that it is true that there are plenty of examples where the minimum space allowances are not met, they are in the case of Lansdowne - hence the reason why pupils obliged to transfer from there to the enlarged Radnor would have had their education potentially compromised. In addition, it is one thing for these inadequate schools to exist - it is quite another to expect the Government to santion there existence.

I am bemused by your suggestion that the Welsh Government rejected an earlier proposal that Treganna expand into Radnor's building. Could you explain when exactly that happened?

One final point - at Jan 2010 there were 202 pupils at Treganna and 49 at Tan yr Eos. I think we will both agree that those figures illustrate the urgency with which this issue now needs to be resolved.

Simon Brooks said...

Just a quick point, MH, on the Radnor-Treganna decision, and thanks first for the excellent blog.

The Cardiff council plan for Treganna to take over Radnor wasn't brought down by WAG, but by the Cardiff Labour Party in a vote on Council. But as we know, the Cardiff Labour Party and the Welsh Assembly Government are one and the same thing, so in essence you're correct!

The electorate and his dog know that Carwyn Jones' decision was a political one based on the Labour Party's view that Welsh-medium education is "ethnic cleansing". The First Minister at the time the plans were summitted to the Assembly was kind enough to let us know that this, expressed in kinder language, was his own view on the matter.

I think there's a reasonable chance of smoking this out in court, so a judicial review seems to be the best way forward. Anyway that's the consensus in Canton.

Emlyn Uwch Cych said...

This situation is a mess created by Labour inaction over a number of years, as well as their traditional visceral antipathy towards the Welsh language.

I can scarcely believe Rhodri Morgan's position in this whole issue. He claims that responding to demands for WM education is akin to ethnic cleansing and that it is merely a desire for self-aggrandising elitism which lies behind this parental choice.

Plaid Cymru's real Politik must now come to an end. Divorce beckons in Cardiff Bay; let Labour govern at the Senedd on a vote-by-vote basis.

MH said...

Thanks for the 2010 figures, Anon 22:09. Would you please provide a link so we see them in context. However, even if they are accurate they are not actually very much higher, bearing in mind that all the figures I have quoted (including capacities) exclude nursery numbers.

The numbers joining a school from nursery education will of course be balanced (indeed there will be a net loss as the admission number goes down) by those moving on to secondary schools.

You don't need to rely on "anecdotal evidence" for children from outside Canton. The detailed figures are in the spreadsheet I linked to.

What you might think is the "primary reason" is actually only one reason. In fact, elsewhere in the Decision Letter, that reasoning is directly contradicted as I noted in my "The flaws in the decision" post today. The FM confirms that three 420 place EM schools is a viable long-term solution. As for your claim that I "have misunderstood" the rationale behind closing Lansdowne rather than Radnor, the larger capacity of Radnor is not the only reason, but it is a key reason. This is the exact wording from the SoI:

"The combined pupil capacity of the Radnor and Treganna buildings is greater than that of the Lansdowne buildings providing a greater margin of capacity to meet any future increase in demand for English-medium education."

Simon has beaten me to it (thanks Simon) about the earlier proposal to close Radnor rather than Lansdowne. I was wrong to say it was rejected by the WG, it was rejected by the Council in 2006. This is the quote:

"An earlier proposal to close Radnor Primary School and to transfer its buildings to Ysgol Treganna was part of the City Wide Investment Plan, which was outlined in the Executive Business Report of 1 December 2005. However, at its meeting on 27 April 2006, the Council decided not to accept any of the Executive’s recommendations in relation to the report."

Thanks for your feedback on a judicial review being seen as the best way forward. I only hope my last post gives some leads about the grounds for such a review. If you can think of others, please let me know.

As for the political ramifications, Emlyn, that's probably worth another post. Labour should not "misunderestimate" how serious the situation is. The decision itself is bad enough, but the breach of trust in taking it unilaterally has caused lasting damage. Everything will now depend on how quickly Labour act to put it right.

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