Ysgol Treganna

When I wrote this post in September last year, it was clear to me that the problem of finding a new location for Ysgol Treganna had finally been resolved. But that still left the matter of going through the necessary procedures to make it happen.

The proposal went out for formal consultation in January, and the public responses have now been collected and appraised in this report which will go to the Executive of Cardiff Council on Thursday. The public view was overwhelmingly in favour (there were only two objections) although some of those in favour had concerns over the size of the school and its close proximity to Pwll Coch.

It goes without saying that it will be voted through; but under the rather ridiculous rules that govern schools reorganization, even one objection is enough for it to be referred to the Welsh Government for a final decision. However it's very hard to see any minister for education rejecting it, for the issue is very simple, as this comment from the children at Treganna, Tan yr Eos and Pwll Coch says perfectly:

It is a good idea as it gives more children the chance to learn through Welsh.

How could we put it any better? ... and there is a selection of other views from the children starting on page 29. Their comments are illuminating because it's nice to see things from a child's perspective, and good that the children in all three of the schools affected were asked.

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But there were two other things that are worth noting. The first concerns how the school will be paid for:

The issue of how the new school would be afforded was raised at several of the public meetings, with concern that in the current climate the Welsh Assembly may not be able to support the Council’s bid for funding. Furthermore there has been a suggestion that if all investment is put toward building a new school there will be less available for others.

Appraisal of views expressed

As part of the continuous review of the consolidated financial model, officers engaged in discussions with WAG officials on the level of support that could be made available in response to Cardiff’s programme-based approach to its Schools Building Improvement Grant (SBIG) Tranche 3 funding bid, which focuses on proposals in East Cardiff. As a result of these discussions additional support of £5.7m is now available. This has the effect of increasing the overall resources available within the consolidated model to support the Canton Primary Provision proposal to £6.185m.

Other schools with investment needs remain reliant on the outcome of the Council’s 21st Century Strategic Outline Programme bids.

It shouldn't really be any surprise that the Welsh Government made more money available in order to build this school. The row that erupted at Carwyn Jones' decision not to allow the school to move to the Lansdowne Primary site would have resulted in a judicial review unless there had been some sort of understanding that the Welsh Government would fund a substantial part of a completely new school. What has happened makes Rhodri Morgan's claim that the school might not be built because funding had not been secured look pathetic and foolish. As I said at the time, he was simply playing the "innocent ignoramus" in a rather clumsy attempt to make it appear that a deal had not been done. It's a political technique at which he is an undoubted past master, but I have no time for that way of doing politics.

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The second thing that I found interesting are these comments about Welsh-medium provision in Grangetown, because although this proposal will solve the WM needs of Canton for the next three or four years, the downside is that Tan yr Eos will now close, leaving children in Grangetown with a far longer journey.

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown – Chief Executive, Plaid Cymru

I fully support the option offered which is to build a brand new school off Sanatorium Road. If Ysgol Tan yr Eos is to close then careful consideration is needed to ensure Welsh education is extended in the Grangetown area of the city. It is obvious that Ysgol Pwll Coch and Ysgol Treganna cannot meet the demand and there will be a need for another school in the South of the city very soon.

Cerys Furlong, Richard Cook & Ramesh Patel – Labour Councillors for Canton

Canton Councillors wholeheartedly support the proposal for a new build Ysgol Treganna on a site we identified off Sanatorium Road, and have been working to encourage Canton residents to back the proposals. We agree that the catchment areas need to be revised, however we remain concerned at the particularly large catchment for Ysgol Gymraeg Pwll Coch. We believe that further consideration needs to be given to the need for a Welsh- medium primary school in the Grangetown (and Butetown) area, alongside these proposals. Any delay in considering this demand will only lead to further problems with demand exceeding supply.

As I said before, these three Labour councillors claiming that this solution was their idea was in fact the surest indication that a deal had been done; but the proposal for a new school was Plaid Cymru's idea and formed part of the Capital Vision document agreed between Plaid and the LibDems after the 2008 election. This plan was thwarted because the Welsh Government said that they would not consider a new build solution while there were so many surplus places in the existing schools.

But it is good to see that there is now a degree of cross-party support for another new WM school in Grangetown. The Council document did give us an insight into Cardiff's thinking on the matter in response to some views expressed in the consultation:

Views expressed

Concern expressed regarding the growing demand for Welsh-medium education from Grangetown and Butetown and suggestions that rather than build a 3 FE school the Council should have considered building a 1FE/2FE nearer to the bay. Sites suggested include The Marl playing fields adjacent to Ferry Road and the old cigar factory on Penarth Road. Some have also asked whether Tan yr Eos could remain a school in its own right and be relocated permanently in the Grangetown/Butetown area, in addition to providing the enlarged Ysgol Gymraeg Treganna.

Appraisal of views expressed

The proposed new school is intended to address demand coming from in and around the Canton area. The rise in the birth rate in the area as a whole, coupled with the steadily increasing demand for Welsh-medium education means that there is a need for a 3FE school in the Canton area.

It is acknowledged that beyond this proposal there will be a need to consider further provision to ensure the availability of sufficient places to cater for the demand from the Riverside, Grangetown and Butetown areas.

The Marl Recreation Ground has been investigated previously and was deemed unsuitable owing to issues relating to an existing deficiency of Public Open Space (POS) in the locality along with difficulties associated with being able to satisfactorily compensate for the loss of POS.

‘The Marl’ is located in the Grangetown Ward, which has a deficiency of recreational and play space relative to the standard contained in planning policy (the 2nd largest deficiency out of the city’s 29 Wards). Furthermore the next nearest facility with comparable facilities is Sevenoaks Parks which does not have any capacity to accept additional facilities to compensate for the loss of the POS at the Marl. Clearly, in a heavily built up inner city area, where POS is already deficient, the opportunities for compensating for the loss of POS will be few.

In contrast the Sanatorium site is amenity POS in an area with a reasonable supply of POS and the Council is able to fund some improvements to the POS available at the site.

The site previously known as the ‘Freemans Cigar Factory’ is in private ownership. Whilst it is no longer used for cigar production it remains intended for commercial use with planning permission granted for this site in December 2010 for “Partial demolition of front elevation of existing buildings and various buildings on site and sub-division of existing commercial unit to create 20 smaller units with revised parking and boundary treatment”.

Ysgol Tan yr Eos was established in order to relieve pressure on Ysgol Gymraeg Treganna and Ysgol Gymraeg Pwll Coch and was intended to remain on its current site at Ninian Park Primary School for a period of two years. The proposed new school will be able to meet demand from in and around Canton with the enlargement of the catchment area meaning some of the pressure will be taken off the demand for places at Ysgol Pwll Coch; thereby allowing it to provide more places for the some of the increased demand from the Grangetown/Butetown areas that remain within its catchment area.

In addition, demand for English-medium provision within the Ninian Park Primary School catchment area is such that the facilities currently occupied by Ysgol Tan yr Eos will soon be required by Ninian Park Primary School.

At least this shows that Cardiff have considered sites for a new WM school in Grangetown, but it's something else again to actually make a firm decision on which site to develop. The only certainty is that the parental demand for WM education in Cardiff is going to keep on growing, so they need to be working on a solution now.

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6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny that, Labour supporting a new build school in a ward they hope to win back. What a happy coincidence.

Makes me feel all warm inside.

Anonymous said...

"The row that erupted at Carwyn Jones' decision not to allow the school to move to the Lansdowne Primary site would have resulted in a judicial review unless there had been some sort of understanding that the Welsh Government would fund a substantial part of a completely new school."

MH - you present your suspicion on this matter as though it were a fact. However, it is simply untrue. Much of what write on this blog is well researched and well argued, but there are times when your party political bias results in you forming the sort of unevidenced conspiracy theory which is commonplace in the rest of the blogosphere. At the political level, ensuring that a new school for Treganna was deliverable was undoubtedly important to the Welsh government. But at the legal level, they were always very confident that a judical review would fail - their legal advice told them so. I suspect that Cardiff LA's legal advice said much the same thing, hence the latter's decision not to pursue that option. No doubt you will rubbish my comments as politically motivated but for the record, and whether you choose to believe it or not, I am not a member of any political party and have no political axe to grind.

MH said...

As I said at the time, Anon 22:36, it's a solution ... but a very expensive one. Pork barrel politics at its most basic level.

A couple of things make me feel warm inside. First: this school might be big and a bit further away, but it will have lots of space and light inside, and green grass and gardens to play and learn in outside. Lansdowne were offered that as a brand new 1FE school on the Fitzalan site, but they turned it down.

Second: although it is true that the population of Cardiff is set to expand, I doubt very much that the growth in the number of children in Canton will increase faster than the growth in the number of children whose parents want them to have a Welsh-medium education. So I'm willing to bet that in five or six years they will be looking to close one of the four EM schools because of surplus spaces anyway ... but I can think of a use for it ;-)

MH said...

I'm just saying what is obvious to me, and what I think should be obvious to anyone, Anon 23:02. You can solve any problem if you throw enough money at it.

Do I care? Yes, of course, because the problem could have been solved much more easily and cheaply. But at the end of the day I'll take the increase in WM provision in whatever form it's offered. There's more than one way to skin a cat. If Plan A doesn't work, I'll settle for Plan B or Plan C ... and move on to fight for the next WM school somewhere else.

I suppose it's inevitable that some people will play politics and, as I did in this post, I'll say what I think of them for doing it. I can do politics too ... but not that way! Welsh-medium education could simply be a provided as a response to the ever-increasing parental demand for it; nobody should go through the sort of song and dance that the kids and teachers in Treganna have had to live with for the past few years.

Anonymous said...

"I'm just saying what is obvious to me, and what I think should be obvious to anyone, Anon 23:02."

That which is not true cannot be obvious MH. Clearly you don't believe me - but as it's your blog, I suppose that is your prerogative.

MH said...

Thinking a little more about where you might be coming from, Anon 23:02, I want to make it clear that I don't think there is anything sinister, underhand or illegal about coming to an understanding that the Welsh Government would allow a new school to be built (for, as I said, they had refused to allow Cardiff to do it before) and that they would provide the bulk of the funding for it. My criticism is directed at the political games that went with it.

The WG gives local authorities hundreds of millions of pounds to build new schools. I don't know if there is an exact formula, but the cost often seems to work out with the LA paying a third and the WG paying two-thirds. All that was necessary here was to prioritize this so as to allow the school to be started as quickly as possible, for the question mark would be whether this could be done immediately given the big reduction in the capital element of the block grant.

As for judicial review; to use a legal analogy, the matter was "settled out of court with a large (but not undisclosed) payment" so that there was no need for a judicial review. I've no reason to doubt your assertion that the WG was confident that they would win at such a review, but Cardiff might have been equally confident and judges do unpredictable things. So why take the risk or waste the time? Carwyn Jones may be a barrister, but even he messed up as Counsel General when it came to the badger cull. His confidence about the outcome of a judicial review might well have been equally misplaced.

It's also worth remembering that Cardiff aren't getting something for nothing (or at least not getting more than other LAs) for this £5.7m now will mean they have to wait longer or get less in the next round.

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