Ysgol Bro Teyrnon

Because it was only reported by the BBC in Welsh, I thought it would be a good idea to tell anyone who missed it about the official opening of Ysgol Bro Teyrnon in Newport last Friday.


     Ysgol Gymraeg newydd i Gasnewydd

This school had its first intake of children last September, and was planned to take 17 in the first year. It started with 16, but the demand has meant it has now had to take 24. Roughly the same number of new pupils will start this coming September. In total, more than 105 new pupils are expected to be admitted to Newport's three Welsh-medium primaries in September, and the demand is expected to keep on growing.


The problem is that Ysgol Bro Teyrnon does not have a permanent home. For now, it is being housed in Maindee Primary School—just behind the Rodney Parade rugby ground as we can see in the picture above—which has enough surplus space to accommodate maybe three WM year groups, but no more. Newport had planned to build a brand new two form entry WM school at Percoed Reen, to the south west of the city between Dyffryn and Coedcernyw as part of their original 21st century schools bid, at a cost of £12.5m. But the cuts to that programme of capital spending resulted in it being dropped in their revised bid:

Welsh-medium primary provision has been reduced in concept by a reduction in capital from £12.5m to a mere £1m, taking this project from a new build to remodelling within the current estate in order to relocate to a permanent site.

Revised 21st Century Schools Bid, November 2011

This means that the new home for Ysgol Bro Teyrnon will have to be in an existing school building, and the options are limited. I believe (though someone with more local knowledge might tell me better) that the former Durham Road Primary school building has not been disposed of following the move to the brand new Glan Usk Primary school a few years ago. The old building is hardly ideal, but it's better than nothing.


Apart from moving into vacated school premises the only other option would be to amalgamate two existing schools onto one site, and then use the other building. Needless to say, that would be fraught with difficulties.


As mentioned in the video report, the next big problem will be to open a WM secondary school for these children to move up to in a few years' time. At present children in Newport, Monmouthshire, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent move on to Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Trefethin, but the continuing expansion of WM education across Gwent means that a second school will be needed within the next few years.

The obvious location would be somewhere in Newport; but if Newport can't afford to build a new WM primary, it's unlikely that they will be able to afford at least twice as much to build a brand new WM secondary. The most likely solution would therefore be to take advantage of the fact that Torfaen are planning on amalgamating Llantarnam and Fairwater schools on a new site (with the support of both schools, as we can read here) which they can still afford to do within their revised 21st Century Schools bid.


As we can see form the map above, Llantarnam School is less than 2km from the Newport border and has good transport links to take children from Newport and Ysgol Y Ffin in Caldicot, and perhaps from Cwmbran too. From the picture below it appears to be in serviceable condition, but if appearances are deceptive it could at least be a temporary solution until a new school can be built.


Taking one step back to see the wider picture, the biggest long-term problem is finding the capital to build new school premises. This is particularly true in Newport because it does not have a great number of surplus places in EM schools, mainly due to population growth. The original 21st Century Schools programme allowed for 70% funding from the Welsh Government and 30% funding from local authorities. In the revised programme, the split is 50% each.

The Welsh Government cannot borrow, and this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon. It certainly won't happen until after Silk has reported, and in my opinion won't happen even then unless the WG agrees to accept significant tax setting powers at the same time. The Treasury's argument is that you can't borrow money on your own account unless you have at your control the means of raising money to pay it back. But there are two other possibilities.

The first is the Build for Wales model, which is essentially PFI but through a not-for-distributable-profit body. The problem with PFI is the excessive profits made by the consortia, particularly on maintenance over a 25 or 30 year period; but that problem disappears if the profits are recycled to the next scheme (or back to the public purse) rather than distributed to private shareholders.

The second possibility is for the Welsh Government to coordinate the existing borrowing powers of local authorities, but to directly reimburse them for the cost of that borrowing. This has already been done once: only last month the WG set up a £60m programme with local authorities to pay for road repairs. As I mentioned in this post at the time, we should not be borrowing money to pay for maintenance, but it would be perfectly acceptable to use the same model for capital expenditure on new schools.

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Anonymous said...

Brilliant news, I love Newport and its unique culture. It's always been the coolest city in Wales.

Efrogwr said...

I know this is not the main point of your article, MH, but I find myself wondering (not) why was this only reported on the BBC Welsh language news site? I would imagine that many of the prospective parents will not themseleves speak Welsh and might want to learn of the development. Surely it is of wider cultural significance for everyone in the Newport area? I thought the BBC liked to go on about how their mission was to reflect our diversity to ourselves etc. etc....

Dewi Harries said...

Cool to go 2 skwl behind Rodney Parade though...

Anonymous said...

Good article MH. In my humble opinion it is a mistake to say "The first is the Build for Wales model, which is essentially PFI but through a not-for-distributable-profit body", even if technically it is correct and your next sentence shows that the bad part of PFI doesn't apply to something like 'Build for Wales'. People won't get the nuance and the PFI brand is completely toxic at the moment. This allowed Labour to unfairly suggest 'Build for Wales' was 'PFI in disguise' even though their party actually supported PFI and Plaid didn't. So more might have to be said on how much 'Build for Wales' ISN'T PFI and how it is an alternative.

MH said...

I understand your point, Anon, but I'm not sure I'd go along with it.

Whatever happens, someone in another party would have come up with, "It's PFI in disguise." And the usual response would be for Plaid AMs to shout out in chorus, "Oh no it isn't" and for the opposition to shout back, "Oh yes it is." That's what political pantomine is all about. It's great fun, and we all like hearing it ... but it isn't constructive. I believe it is always right to acknowledge any degree of truth in your opponent's position. It disarms them and opens the door to constructive dialogue.

We have a very real capital funding crisis, which is only just begining to bite. In a couple of years it will be intolerable. It's pointless indulging in political pantomine, not least because we're stuck with the current Labour government until 2016. If we're to get things like new schools built, we have to be constructive. Of the three routes I outlined (direct borrowing by the WG, Build for Wales, and WG funding for the costs local authority borrowing) I don't particularly mind which of these we do ... but we need to do at least one of them.

The 21st Century Schools programme has been severely cut (it's semantic stupidity to say it hasn't been cut, but merely rescheduled). For the last ten years or so, changing demographics had meant fewer pupils and more surplus places in schools. In that climate it was possible (indeed necessary) to close schools, and we could therefore open new WM schools in the vacated buildings. But because the demographics are now starting to move the other way, that option is more difficult. In other words, we'll need to change tactics in those parts of Wales where population growth is a factor. We'll need to build new schools to increase WM provision to the levels indicated by, so far as I am aware, every survey on parental demand for it.

If we don't grasp this nettle now, there will be no way of meeting the WMES targets I drew attention to in my other post yesterday. We can't allow Leighton Andrews to say in 2015, "It wasn't my fault, I'm not in charge of capital expenditure."

Anonymous said...

This is getting worse on BBC Wales - lack of any news which deals with the Welsh language - Urdd Eisteddfod was pretty much ignored even though thousands of parents who don't speak Welsh have kids in WM schools. Same with this story about WM in Newport.

It's almost 'ah, that's Welsh, keep it for the Welshies'. It's right to recognise different editorial priorities, but it's almost as if they're trying to imply that the Welsh language is of no relevance or interest to people who don't speak Welsh - or even those Welsh speakers (of which there is probably a disproportionate number) who watch Wales Today.

lionel said...

It's almost 'ah, that's Welsh, keep it for the Welshies'. It's right to recognise different editorial priorities, but it's almost as if they're trying to imply that the Welsh language is of no relevance or interest to people who don't speak Welsh - or even those Welsh speakers (of which there is probably a disproportionate number) who watch Wales Today.

27 June 2012 20:06

along with the "I wish I was English" accents of BBC Wales presenters like Jamie Owen

lionel said...

There are two issues in Newport in my opinion. The demographics are changing here largely because of immigration. These people are the very ones that the welsh medium education lobby should be targeting. Often these people are multilingual and keen to integrate properly. What better a target audience. we should be approaching them enthusiastically to sell the case of WM education on top of their own indigenous languages. This has NOT happened so far, nor has it in the Adult Education sector. we seem to be scared of the "ethnic" population. They are by and large hugely supportive of different languages and want to be included ion the society that they live in.
The second issue is that of finance. Llantarnam is a real option I suppose, despite being close to Gwynllyw. Pressure needs to be put on Newport council to either expand Teyrnion within present premises or to take the buildings that you suggest. I will be doing this, with my own kids on the way towards the primary age in the eastern part of Newport

MH said...

Thanks for the comments, Lionel. Sorry it's taken me a while to respond and I hope you're still reading.

I agree with you and Efrogwr before that there is something almost wilfully bizarre about not reporting stories like this on Wales Today.

On the issue of ethnic minorities, the video clip shows at least three non-white kids on the stage, but they might be from the host school, Maindee. I can see no reason why anyone from an ethic minority would not want their children to learn Welsh, except maybe if their home language wasn't English, and they were therefore using English-medium education as the primary means for their children to become competent in English (i.e. exactly the same immersion method that non Welsh speaking families are using to ensure their children become competent in Welsh). But even then it would be a question of balancing priorities, rather than any feeling against Welsh.

I'm not at all sure that expanding Ysgol Bro Teyrnon on the Maindee site is a good idea. I think the most that could happen is that temporary classrooms could be put up to give Newport an extra year's grace to find a permanent solution, i.e. that if they got the funding to build a new school sorted, it would give them time to build it. However, as you're local, can you perhaps confirm whether the Durham Road site is empty (rather than demolished or being used for something else) and whether you know of any other empty school buildings that might be suitable?

MH said...

Another possibility, Lionel (although probably in the longer term) is for the new school that is bound to be required under a Section 106 agreement for the redevelopment of the western part of the old Llanwern steelworks site to be Welsh-medium. It's close to Ysgol Gymraeg Casnewydd, but if it's the only way of solving the capacity issue ...

lionel said...

if it's the one I think it is it was nothing more than a pile of rubble last time I was in the area looking for stones for my rockery. I'll pop over and have a look and report back!

MH said...

Save yourself the trip, Lionel. I've just Googled and found that the Durham Road site passed into the ownership of the PFI consortium that built the replacement school. It has now passed to the housing association Linc Cymru, who plan to develop it for residential use. This report from April says that it's been demolished already. So that option is out.

Any others?

shikorina said...

Hi there, just found your blog. If you're interested and haven't heard, the proposal from NCC is to close Brynglas Primary, and amalgamate it with Crindau. Bro Teyrnon will take that building. That leaves the ASD unit currently in Brynglas homeless, as it were, so they plan on taking Gaer Infant School, emptying it of all its pupils and relocating them onto the Junior site, and in the process having to build a new wing to accommodate, despite it being a listed building. Thus the ASD pupils will have their own school, Bro Teyrnon its own school and Gaer children will be crammed onto an unsuitable site in order to make room for a (now, at least) small Welsh Medium school. So, no, sadly, they are not taking an empty building, they are playing chess with our children's education, moving them around like pieces on a board, to accommodate the perceived desire for more WM places in Newport. It is grossly unfair on Gaer children, yet that doesn't seem to bother the council at all. Just so long as Bro Teyrnon get their own building, what happens to the education and prospects of children elsewhere in Newport, the untold damage it will do to a school (Gaer Infants) which is the centre of the community, none of that appears to matter one jot. I'm all for WM education (I'm from Llanelli) but not at the expense of other children's education. What are your thoughts on how giving Bro Teyrnon its own school will damage the education of other children?

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