Swansea's small step forward

It was in March last year that Swansea put forward plans to close the half-empty Graig Infants school in Morriston and convert it into a new Welsh-medium school, while at the same time amalgamating the nearby Pentrepoeth Infants and Junior schools into a new English-medium primary. The news today is that these plans have been approved and that the new schools will open in September.

As highlighted by RhAG in this paper in 2009, Morriston has long been the area of Swansea with the biggest demand for WM education but with no provision for it. So this is definitely a step forward ... but I have to say that it is not such a big step.

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Graig Infants is a small school with a capacity of 113. As an infants school it would be one-form entry, but as a WM primary with seven year groups and a nursery it will be a less than half-form entry school with a maximum intake of only 14 children a year.

     

     

As we can see from the pictures, it already has two temporary classroom blocks which have probably been there for so long that they might as well be thought of a permanent accommodation. And what looks as if it should be a hard play area is in fact used to park about ten cars. Nor does the site have any room for expansion, for the wooded area in the bottom right of the aerial photo has now been developed as housing. So it's far from ideal, though obviously it's a lot better than no WM school in Morriston at all.

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Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if Swansea were planning to expand WM education elsewhere. But they're not. They are currently going through a paperwork exercise to increase the capacities of three WM primaries at Gellionen, Pontybrenin and Tirdeunaw ... but are not planning to increase the physically space available in these schools. To put it bluntly, they want to squeeze more children into less space than the regulations allow. A local authority is allowed to overcrowd a school by 25% without needing permission to do so, but Swansea have already done that, and now want to go even further.

This is a tragedy because for the past few months Swansea has had three empty school buildings which could easily become new WM schools. I put the case for opening new starter schools in the old Cwm and Arfryn buildings here. And RhAG presented a proposal for a WM school in the old Llanmorlais building, which I mentioned here.

It's still not too late for Swansea to put together proposals to set up starter schools in these buildings in time for them to open in September this year. There cannot be any reasonable objections, because they are currently sitting empty and unused.

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2 comments:

Sid said...

Some amazing insensitivity shown to the Swansea communities that are losing their schools. No wonder Plaid is down to a single member on the council.

MH said...

Sid, In case it hasn't dawned on you, Graig Infants was more than half empty as an English-medium school and would have been closed anyway; just as the current Swansea administration has closed Cwm, Arfryn and Llanmorlais. So who's being insensitive?

Reopening these as Welsh-medium schools keeps these buildings available for use by the communities they are in, for Welsh-medium schools can be used in the evenings, weekends and holidays by everyone in the community. And of course during the school day they will be used by children in those very communities whose parents want them to have a Welsh-medium education.

Swansea have done this once with Graig. It's still not too late for them to do it with Cwm, Arfryn and Llanmorlais as well.

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