More Welsh-medium Schools in Powys

In October last year Powys County Council commissioned a survey of parental preferences for Welsh-medium education in the county. I haven't been able to find the final report, but have found this from the minutes of a meeting in February this year.

Update on survey of Welsh-medium demand

Members received preliminary findings from a recent Powys-wide survey of parents of children born between September, 2007 and August, 2009, on the future demand for Welsh medium education.

It was noted that the data had not yet been weighted to reflect greater demand from families with more than one child.

Gareth Jones [Powys Senior Manager] explained the data and the following points were noted:

•  There had been a response rate of 29% to the survey

•  43% of those parents who responded indicated that they would be very likely or fairly likely to choose Welsh-medium education

•  42% of respondents indicated they would be very likely or fairly likely to choose Welsh medium education if there was a school providing Welsh medium primary education within 10 miles of their home

•  Of those parents who responded to the survey, 91% were mainly English speaking

•  87% of respondents had indicated they would like their child to speak Welsh

It was noted that further analysis of the data would be needed and a final analysis was expected by the end of this month and a final report by the end of March, 2011.

Members suggested detailed geographical analysis of the data in order to establish the number of Welsh medium, English medium, and dual stream schools likely to be required in order to meet future demand in each geographical area.

Hywel Lovgreen [a governor at Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd] suggested that, given the data was just a guideline, it might be necessary for the Authority to be “visionary” and take a bold decision based on the trend of growing demand for Welsh medium education reflected in the statistics.

Chair commented that the data suggested that the overall demand for Welsh medium places was likely to double; it would be necessary to establish where the demand for places would be likely to be in order to make recommendations as to the location of future Welsh medium primary provision. It was likely that there would be more demand in some areas of the County than others, and, therefore more detailed analysis of the data would be necessary.

My reason for doing the search was as background to some very good news in the local media about a proposed new Welsh-medium school in Newtown.

Welsh school revelation for Newtown

Mynewtown can reveal that Newtown is set to be home to a ‘super school’ which will transform the way Welsh Medium education is delivered in the future. And the location of the proposed 300-pupil Welsh Medium Primary School is set to provoke fierce debate between the Town Hall Park and sports club grounds on a list of possible sites.

Powys County Council has established a board to review Welsh Medium primary school provision in the Severn Valley and mynewtown understands that while plans are in the very early stages, the central ‘super school’ concept will be recommended to the Cabinet for pupils in the Newtown catchment area.

Cabinet Member for Schools, Councillor Stephen Hayes said: “I can confirm that an Area Project Board established to help review Welsh Medium primary school provision in the Severn Valley is recommending a new Welsh medium primary school for 300 pupils in Newtown.

“As part of that work the council is compiling a list of locations in the town large enough to accommodate the project. The work is at a very early stage and no decisions have been made on possible site. The area project board's recommendations will be considered by a future meeting of the Cabinet.”

The list, we have been told, also includes Newtown’s current primary school sites as well as large patches of land like the sports grounds and the council depot on Pool Road. The soon-to-be-closed Focus site is also on the radar.

The Town Council is believed to be enraged by the suggestion of using the Town Hall grounds in the town centre while the sports field scenario is thought to be unlikely due to the cost of finding suitable alternative fields.

Initially it was thought that the school would accommodate children from the entire Severn Valley but a council spokesman confirmed this morning that the proposal is “just for the Newtown Catchment area”.

My Newtown, 1 June 2011

New primary school planned for Newtown

A new 300-pupil Welsh medium primary school will be built in Newtown under plans to transform education in the region.

Powys County Council said today an area project board set up to review Welsh medium education in the area has recommended a new school is built in the town to meet the demand and a list of potential sites are being drawn up. Council chiefs will discuss the issue at a cabinet meeting in the coming months.

The move comes as many schools in Powys face an uncertain future with many underpopulated primary schools facing the axe.

Shropshire Star, 2 June 2011

It's interesting to note that what was once thought to be a proposal for the whole of the Severn Valley area is now only going to serve the Newtown catchment area. At present the one WM school in Newtown is Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd, with 138 children. It isn't clear whether the new school is intended to replace it or supplement it, but even as a replacement (which would be more likely, since the current premises are inadequate) it means that the new school would more than double the WM provision in the Newtown area.

And if this new school is only intended to serve Newtown, there will almost certainly need to be other new WM schools in the remainder of the Severn Valley area, and in the other parts of Powys.

Dangerous things, these parental surveys ... I don't think there's been one that hasn't shown the demand for WM education to be at least twice as great as the number of places the LEA had been providing.

Update - 6 June 2011

Another story on the new school in the County Times which answers a few more questions. It is going to be a replacement for Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd, it will open in September 2013, and there are five sites under consideration.

Welsh medium primary school plans unveiled

Plans to build a new 300-pupil Welsh medium primary school for Newtown have been confirmed by Powys County Council. The school, which would replace Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd, has been recommended by the council’s area project board.

Calls for a new Welsh medium school in the Newtown area have been growing substantially over recent years with Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd, the only Welsh Medium primary school in the Newtown area, already hugely over-subscribed.

Councillor Stephen Hayes, Powys County Council’s cabinet member for schools, said: “I can confirm that an area project board, established to help review Welsh medium primary school provision in the Severn Valley, is recommending a new Welsh medium primary school for 300 pupils in Newtown.”

The County Times understands that five potential sites for the school are being considered, although Cllr Hayes said that the work on a location is still at a ‘very early stage’. He said: “As part of that work the council is compiling a list of locations in the town large enough to accommodate the project. The work is at a very early stage and no decisions have been made on a possible site.”

The sites under consideration are understood to include land near to Coleg Powys, a site near Maesyrhandir Primary School, one on Newtown High School’s campus, another near to Newtown Cricket Club and one in the Town Park. The plan will require around one-and-a-half hectares for construction of the school.

The news was revealed by Newtown Town and County Councillor Richard White, who said: “The area project board has come to the conclusion that Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd is bursting at the seams and a new school for 300 pupils needs to be built and ready by September 2013.”

Cllr Hayes confirmed that the proposal would go before the council’s cabinet. He said: “The area project board’s recommendations will be considered by a future meeting of the cabinet.”

County Times, 6 June 2011

The only suggestion I would make is the need to build in some flexibility for the future. 300 is by no means a large school, and it would make sense to find a site and design any new school in a way that would allow it to become a 420 place, two form entry school if future demand justified it.

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Anonymous said...

"At present there is one WM school and one dual stream school in the Newtown area. Ysgol Gynradd Carno is very small with only 28 children and Ysgol Rhiw Bechan in Tregynon has a total of 159 children, of which probably half are in the WM stream."

Perhaps I have misunderstood your post, but it seems to me that you may have overlooked the existing WM school in Newtown, Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd.

MH said...

Your local knowledge is probably better than mine, Anon. However the Powys Schools Information Booklet that I linked to says there are 13 catchment areas, each centred on a secondary school. Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd is listed as being in the Llanfair Caereinion (Ysgol Uwchradd Caereinion) catchment area, not the Newtown (Newtown High) catchment area.

Now I can't be sure if the spokesman was using "Newtown Catchment area" in a precise or a loose way, but I assumed he was being precise.

Anonymous said...

Ah right - I see where you have got confused. Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd is in Newtown itself but feeds Ysgol Caereinion because Newtown High school does not have a WM stream. I think what these articles are saying is that a new, larger WM school to serve the immediate are of Newtown is planned, ie one which will replace Dafydd Llwyd.

MH said...

Yes, that would make a lot more sense, Anon. Thanks. Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd has 138 pupils, and the other schools I'd mentioned are too far away to be relevant, so I've rewritten that part.

I guess the only question is whether the new school is intended to replace Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd or supplement it. But even as a replacement (which would be more likely) it means that the new school would more than double the provision in the Newtown area.

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