More about Ysgol Gymraeg Bon-y-maen

A couple of weeks ago in this post I welcomed Swansea's decision to go out to consultation on a proposal to open a new Welsh-medium school in the old Cwm Primary School in Bon-y-maen, on the east side of Swansea. Since then the consultation document and the Cabinet Report on which the Council based its decision have been published, and I'm quite pleased with what they say.

     Consultation Paper
     Cabinet Report

The Consultation Paper is relatively straightforward. It includes this map showing that the catchment area is the southern half the current catchment area of Ysgol Gymraeg Lôn Las, and says that the admission number will be at least 23.


The Cabinet Report (the proposal is in the third part of the document, starting at page 27) gave some interesting information on Swansea's thinking. One of the questions I asked before was why the proposal was to set up this school for September 2012 rather than for September of this year, since the demand is obviously there. On the question of demand, the report says this:

As at January 2010 there were 38 surplus places at YGG Lôn Las (9.0%) ...

YGG Lon Las currently has an admission number of 60 but the local authority had to admit over this number ... As demand continues to grow at YGG Lôn Las there is simply no scope to admit them at the school, nor in the next nearest Welsh medium school, nor indeed, the next nearest either. Under existing Council policy transport costs are incurred where a pupil has to travel more than 2 miles to attend the nearest appropriate school.

So the pattern of growth at Lon Las is such that, even though there is space in the older year groups, the current intake in the early years is now much greater than Lôn Las can sustain. The school had to admit 15 children more than the admission number of 60 last September, and it is fairly obvious that this number is going to go up again this coming September. But it does appear that Swansea have thought that one through:

It was previously considered that a possible way forward could be to establish a starter class in one of the two buildings on the former Cwm Primary site from September 2011. As long as this remained temporary accommodation (for no more than 3 years) it would not be necessary to undertake any formal statutory consultation process. It would then have been necessary to undertake a full statutory consultation to establish a new Welsh medium primary school on a permanent site once this had been determined. The possibility of setting up early years provision on the site from September 2011, linked with an existing school, is still under consideration.

This formal consultation is in fact to establish a permanent school in its own right with a separate headteacher and governing body. However there is nothing to stop Cwm Primary coming into use in September this year as overflow accommodation which is officially still a part of Lôn Las. As it happens, this is exactly what Cardiff did at Gabalfa, which for a year operated as overflow accommodation to Melin Gruffydd, but then became Ysgol Glan Ceubal in its own right. Obviously I wouldn't expect Swansea to commit to anything now, but they will know if the proposal has been approved by summer, and the Junior Block of the old Cwm Primary is sitting empty and ready to be used at short notice. The only alternative would be to put up more temporary accommodation at Lôn Las; but that would cost money, so the decision should be a no brainer.

The other thing that had concerned me was that the Cwm Infants Block is now home to the Bon-y-maen Family Centre. But it appears that this is temporary and it will be rehoused in Cefn Hengoed when refurbishment there is complete. That means that both blocks at Cwm will eventually be available for the new WM school, with a capacity of 167. It may well not be a permanent home if money becomes available to build a new school or if, as the most telling part of the report states:

Once the school has been established it will be possible to determine whether the Cwm site is the most appropriate permanent location for the new school or whether the wider rationalisation of English medium provision might provide a more suitable permanent location. This decision will need to reflect the natural catchment area that develops for the school and also the implications of wider housing developments in Neath Port Talbot.

I guess that means that as future phases of the Coed Darcy development get completed, either a second new WM school will open there which might attract children from around Port Tennant; or maybe that a new EM school there might do the same, leaving an empty EM school building which could house a larger WM school. I wouldn't mind betting that the latent demand will result in it being another WM school, rather than a replacement for this one.

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Anonymous said...

Is there any news about whether the new school at Coed Darcy will be WM or EM? There's a massive shortfall of primary WM places in Neath Port Talbot at the moment although that by no means translates into the new school being WM.


MH said...

Good question, Dai. I have to admit that I had found NPT one of the least transparent authorities on this issue, but I've just done another search, and found this council document from October 2010. It confirms that Coed Darcy includes a Section 106 agreement for three primaries and a secondary. And Wiki says that one primary will be WM. But the development it will happen in a number of phases, and is not planned to be complete until 2026-28. In the current economic climate, it might take even longer.

Now I turn to guesswork. I had thought that the first primary to be built would be WM, simply because NPT badly need more WM. But phase one is the eastern side of the development and therefore unlikely to benefit Swansea. So the only way for Coed Darcy to help Swansea's WM primary situation would be if the Coed Darcy balance changed to two WM and one EM primary. That seems unlikely. But in any case, the third primary (whether WM or EM) would be the last to be built, and therefore many years away.

The NPT's document doesn't really say too much about WM primary provision. It says there's a problem with capacity (except in the tradition WM schools in more remote communities) but seems to focus more on the need for another WM secondary than more WM primaries. They seem to be saying that parents who would prefer a WM education don't sent their children to WM primaries because the travel distances for WM secondaries are so great, and therefore sorting out the secondary problem is more important than increasing primary provision.

One EM primary proposal is to build a new school to replace Glanymor and Tirmorfa on the Glanymor site. This would allow Rhosafan, which shares the Tirmorfa site, to expand by say another 150 places. But they are already admitting pupils at way over their admission number of 38, so it's only regularizing the existing situation rather than providing additional WM capacity for the future. The buildings aren't exactly in good condition, but that's par for the course.

DaiTwp said...

Yes neath Port Talbot is an odd one. As you've mentioned the Welsh schools in the non-traditionakl Welsh speaking parts are over subscribed and that is with partents taking into account the present situation where they know thir children will have to travel to the NW extreme corner (i.e. Ystalyfera) for their secondary education. Any new school in the S/SE as the new one proposed, although very welcome, is only likely to increased demand for places in the already over subscribed primary schools. However there seems little movement regarding creating new primary places and given the situation with the cuts in capital funding, it's hard to see how their are going to solve this problem. (Any ideas whether they are looking to rationalise surplus places in EM schools and use that to create new WM places - always a minefield which is why councils useually steer clear. I noted in the case in Bonymaen when they initial closed the school, council leader gave "assurances" it would not be re-opened as a WM school. Although this positive development in Swansea along with Morriston does appear like the council are listening to Rhags blue print for starting "starter schools" and thereby avoiding the long drawn out processs of opening a brand new one from scratch. I know the size of the school and limitation of the site is disappointing but history shows it's much easier to expand/move an existing WM school than create a brand new one).
On a positive note I believe by creating the new school in the south it creates a real oppurtunity for a reduced capacity Ystalyfera school (which will serve a new reduced catchment area which should basically cover the traditional strongholds of the language in the NW of the county) to act as a catalyst for the language in area where it, unfortunatly at present, is fast dissapearing as a language of the community (not looking forward to the census figures for this region!).


Anonymous said...

This is completley unrelated but I was wondering if you could help.

But is there information on
a) How many MPs are fluent Welsh Speakers
b) How many Assembly members are fluent Welsh speakers

Thanks/ Diolch

MH said...

I don't know the answer to those questions, Anon. And in any case I think "fluent" is too subjective as a term.

Perhaps the best way of rephrasing the question for AMs is to look for those who have spoken Welsh in debates or committee sessions. You could look through the records, or you might even try emailing the Assembly to ask. For MPs, I can't think of an obvious way of finding out.

Anonymous said...

What about children who currently attend Lon Las nursery who live in the Bonymaen area? Will they 'have' to move to the new school or will they have the choice to stay as surely it would be unfair to uproot a child to start reception at the new site when they have spent nearly 2 years at lon las nursery??!!

MH said...

I don't know what the exact arrangements would be, Anon. But as a general rule, children nearly always tend to stay in the school in which they started, so as to minimize any disruption to their education and to the friendships they've made. So I would be very surprised if anyone was forced to move.

However, if it does turn out that there are say fifteen or so children from Bon y Maen or beyond currently in the nursery at Lôn Las you might well be able to—if that's what parents want—make a case for moving to the new school. Moving as a group is obviously going to be less disruptive because friendships will not be broken, and it could be a lot better to only have to walk a short distance to school. Talk about it with other parents and with the teachers.

Anonymous said...

I see what you mean but after speaking to the council I have basically been told that i'll just have to wait and see what happens when the time comes for me to apply for my child's reception place at Lon Las. I think my child will then lose thier place because Lon Las will no longer be my catchment school when the new one opens in bonymaen. I think this is unfair as when i chose Lon Las it was then our catchment school and i dont think my child should have to move because of things that have changed in the meantime but i feel i may be left with no choice because when i apply for thier reception place then i may lose the place because of the change in catchment and this is a massive worry for me as my child is extremely happy and settled at lon las.

MH said...

I'm sorry that your comment at 09:59 on 24 March has only just appeared, Dai.

It had been caught in the spam filter, but didn't deserve to be. Some good points.

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