Canton Schools ... More condemnation

In response to Carwyn Jones' decision to reject Cardiff's proposal for schools' reorganization in Canton, the Association of Directors of Education in Wales issued this news release today:


The Welsh Assembly Government's decision to reject Cardiff Council’s proposals to reorganise primary schools flies in the face of the need to continue to raise educational standards, reduce surplus places and meet the targets in the recently published Welsh-medium Education strategy, One Wales and the 21st Century Schools initiative.

The Welsh Assembly Government and Ministers have over the last few years made it clear to local authorities that they need to ensure efficiencies are realised and that they must reduce the number of surplus places. This decision from the Assembly Government is contrary to these requirements.

The outcomes of recent Estyn local authority inspections have been critical of progress by local authorities in addressing school organisation issues. The biggest impediment to reorganisation is the complex and bureaucratic processes in place at the Welsh Assembly Government which are required to achieve school closures and a reduction in surplus places.

There are numerous examples of individual Assembly Members opposing school closures within their own constituencies. This type of opposition merely adds to the difficulty of the process.

When a proposal goes through the statutory process even when there is only one objection, a very detailed report is required by the Welsh Assembly. Once it has been submitted to the Welsh Assembly, it can take up to a year to be processed and for authorities to receive a response. In contrast the initial and statutory proposal at local authority level, in often very hostile meetings consulting with the pupils, staff, governors, parents and the wider community, has taken a mere 4 to 5 months.

Whilst most proposals are eventually accepted, the rejection of the Cardiff proposals not only sets the authority back several years but leaves everyone questioning the level of commitment by the Welsh Assembly Government. If Cardiff decided to appeal this decision and proceed to a Judicial Review then ADEW would support the authority.

Now is the time to question several aspects of the current process.

The process needs to be speeded up and if it remains as currently, then there needs to be capacity to deal with proposals in a timely manner. Currently the time spent waiting is totally unacceptable.

In the past at least 10 local objections were required before the Welsh Assembly were required to rule on the proposal. Now it is one objection and this can be from someone with a very tenuous link to the schools. This needs to be reviewed.

More importantly, should the decision making process provide an approach which is independent of the political whim of the Welsh Assembly Government?

Chair of ADEW
Richard Parry, Strategic Director for Education Swansea City and County Council

Vice Chair of ADEW
Dr. Brett Pugh, Chief Education Officer Newport City Council

News Release, 2 June 2010

I also found this statement from the Welsh Local Government Association ... with apologies for it being a few days old:

WLGA calls for a complete national review of school closures policy in Wales


The retrograde and questionable decision by the Welsh Assembly Government to reject Cardiff County Council’s plans to modernise English language provision and to expand Welsh-medium education in west Cardiff yet again exposes the yawning gap between national rhetoric and local reality on the issue of surplus school places.

WLGA Education spokesperson Cllr. Peter Fox stated:

"Local authorities in Wales have been constantly exhorted by Ministers and the Schools Inspectorate Estyn to deal with the issues of surplus school places which are costly and in some cases have led to poor educational outcomes. Yet time after time, once a set of closures are proposed across any part of Wales we see Assembly Members leading campaigns to keep these same schools open. The rejection of Cardiff’s proposals calls into sharp relief the question of meaningful shared commitment at government level. This is despite consistent evidence by Estyn highlighted above which has been presented to Ministers.

"In addition, the bureaucratic process to close a school is one of huge complexity and adding to this is the emerging problem of the very slow turnaround of decisions by the Assembly Government on appeals. As a consequence this whole process is in danger of turning into an expensive waste of time. It is vital that proper consultation occurs with parents and we readily understand that many feel passionately about their local school. Local government wants a new positive rationalisation process working with parents, governors and communities to establish new structures and functions and making better use of the assets. That said the art of government is about difficult financial choices particularly in a time of massive resource constraints, in Cardiff’s case the Assembly has ducked this choice and have no alternatives to offer."

News Release, 27 May 2010

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Anonymous said...

If I were a Plaid/Tory/LibDem councillor in any part of Wales now, I'd refuse to close any school o English medium or Welsh medium quoting the Labour Party's line that it would be 'to the detriment' of their education to move kids from one school to another.

Why should councillors up and down the country take difficult decisions which lose them votes (and in Plaid's case, cost them the county) when Labour can play 'chicken' and avoid taking tough decision so as to pander to an anti-Welsh vote?

Go on Cllr Dyfed Edwards in Gwynedd, don't close Ysgol y Parc and ask Labour to stump up the cash. Same is true of other councillors across Wales.

MH said...

There's a piece by Rodney Berman, the LibDem leader of Cardiff Council, here:

Our kids deserve better than Labour ministers using schools reorganisation as a political football

Carl Morris said...

Good piece by Simon Brooks

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