Swansea and Cardiff

It looks like Leighton Andrews makes decisions in batches, for hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement that a new WM school has been given the go ahead in Swansea comes the decision to allow Cardiff to reorganize schools in Whitchurch.

     Whitchurch schools shake-up gets go-ahead

The basic issue was that Whitchurch did not have enough children in the area to support both Eglwys Wen and Eglwys Newydd as two-form entry English-medium schools, and that these were only the size they were because of children coming from outside the area. Coupled with that, Melin Gruffydd—the WM school that currently shares a site with Eglwys Wen—was continually expanding resulting in an intolerable situation for both schools. Something had to be done, it was a question of what.

As I've said before in much more detail, I thought the ideal solution would have been to keep Eglwys Newydd as it is, but to build a brand new one form entry school at Heol Don for Eglwys Wen to move into, leaving Melin Gruffydd to use the whole site they currently share. As I read the situation, the main objection to that is that Cardiff prefer fewer, larger schools. The cost of building a new school would probably not have been that much greater than the extensive rebuilding work that will be necessary to convert the Eglwys Newydd building into a two-form entry WM school.

But we don't always get what we want, and even though the plan now approved by the Welsh Government is not as good as it might have been, it will do. It doesn't do anything to increase WM provision, for Melin Gruffydd's intake is already over 60, but it achieves the main goal of reducing the overcrowding on the shared site, allowing a each school a stable, sustainable future that doesn't rely on inadequate temporary accommodation.

     

As we can see from the aerial photo above, the Eglwys Newydd building is on a long, narrow site. The plan, as shown below, is to take down the temporary accommodation and build a new junior block which will take up all the hard play area to the south. It's all a lot tighter than I would like, but perhaps the detailed plan will not be so bad. I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

     

As these two decisions have come at the same time, it provides an opportunity to look at the difference in attitude between Cardiff and Swansea Councils towards the expansion of WM education.

Swansea started by doing the right thing. They were one of the first local authorities to commission a proper survey of parental wishes, and if they had got their way Llwynderw would have been built as a 2 FE rather than 1.5 FE school. It was the Welsh Government that refused to allow a larger school to be built. But since then Swansea have sat on their hands and done nothing to increase the provision of WM places to meet the parental demand for it. The new WM school at Graig is their first new initiative for years, even though their own survey showed that 36% of parents would choose a WM school if there was one near them.

My greatest criticism of Cardiff is that they have never bothered to commission a survey of parental preferences. Yet they know that the demand must be there, and have taken steps to continually increase WM provision anyway. Although they've had problems with their proposals for Canton and Whitchurch in particular, their proposals for other parts of the city have been implemented without any real problems. Because of that, the number of WM places in Cardiff is continually growing. However, when they eventually do commission the survey, I'm sure they'll find they need to increase WM provision much more than they have to date.

In short, Cardiff's attitude has been to push forward proposals and to keep coming up with more if any of them fall though. It's sometimes messy, but it gets a result. Swansea's attitude for the past few years has been to ignore the wishes of parents, and do as little as they can get away with.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Syniadau

Can you please look into Welsh council websites Welsh language provision
http://www.monmouthshire.gov.uk/site/index.php
http://www.newport.gov.uk/_dc/index.cfm
http://www.torfaen.gov.uk/Home.aspx

None of these sites have any welsh langauge content. Newport doesnt even have a Welsh/Cymraeg link and pretends the langauge doesnt even exist.
IS this legal? If so what can be done about it.
Diolch

MH said...

Anon, The examples that you've given are typical of not only of some local authorities, but of some other public bodies such as the NHS or police. Where there is Welsh language content, it is often only nominal.

This is certainly a failure to treat both languages on the basis of equality. So yes, I would say that it's illegal under the 1993 Welsh Language Act. The problem is that the Welsh Language Board could investigate breaches of the agreed Welsh Language Schemes, but had absolutely no powers of enforcement. The most they could do was "name and shame".

Things are now likely to change as a result of the new Welsh Language Measure, with the Welsh Language Board being replaced by a Commissioner who will set standards for Welsh language provision (as opposed to agreeing a WLS) and who will have powers of enforcement which could lead to fines for non-compliance. But as this hasn't yet been set up, we don't know what the standards will be, or how willing the Commissioner will be to enforce them.

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