More new Welsh-medium schools

This is my second post on new Welsh-medium schools which are opening or moving to larger buildings at the start of this new school year. The first was here.

Ysgol Treganna, Cardiff

The story of finding a new permanent home for Ysgol Treganna is worthy of being called a saga ... not just in the sense of being an epic stuggle against the dark forces of the political underworld, but because you'd have to be over fifty to remember how it started.

Now isn't the time to retell the story. Suffice to say the saga is now at an end, and it's time to celebrate the fruits of victory. The days of teaching in cupboards and corridors are over, the staff won't have to queue to use one toilet, and the kids will have space in which to learn and play ... both indoors and in green space outside. The end product is certainly better than it might otherwise have been, but the time it took to get there could have been so much shorter.

As an overview of what the school looks like, it's probably best to use the original design images, as nothing is tidy enough to take glossy pictures of yet:



Now the design has become reality, and these are some images which I've taken from the school's Twitter feed.









There will be challenges ahead for the new school. Ysgol Treganna had been a small, tight-knit school of just over 200 pupils in which everybody knew everyone else. When Tan yr Eos was set up as an overflow it again developed into a small, tight-knit school of just over 100. Now, not only have the two come together under one roof, but the intake will be increased to 90 each year, meaning that the school will eventually have 720 pupils including those in the nursery. It will be the largest primary school in Wales.

This is bound to change the ethos and character of the school for, even with the best will in the world, it will be now be hard for everybody to know everyone else. What before could have been done informally will probably have to be done more formally, and some will find it hard to adjust. But with good will and dedication any such problems can be overcome ... and perhaps even turned to advantage. I wish everybody concerned all the best in what promises to be a bright new future.

Ysgol Bro Edern, Cardiff

This is Cardiff's long-awaited third Welsh-medium secondary school. Although it has existed as a separate entity for the last year, it was located in temporary accommodation on the site of Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf. But it has now moved to a permanent new home in the buildings that used to house St Teilo's, while St Teilo's has moved into a brand new building which is so nice that it would be better not to show any pictures of it here. Let's not be envious ... well, not too envious!

It's much better to look on the bright side. Here are some pictures of Ysgol Bro Edern's new home:



The school has a new sign over the front entrance and even its own bus stop outside ... and the view from the top is fantastic.




There are lots of school buildings in Wales that are in worse condition. The important thing is that Cardiff now has a third Welsh-medium secondary school, with capacity for some 1,100 children, in a good location to serve the eastern part of the city. These are things that are worth celebrating. What matters more is the quality of the education and the dedication and enthusiasm of the staff, the pupils and their parents. I wish them every success as they stretch their wings and establish their own identity and ethos.

The next problem for Cardiff will be to find a location for a fourth Welsh-medium secondary – something that needs to be thought about now, because with the massive growth in Welsh-medium primary education in Cardiff, it will be necessary in only a few years' time.

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Dylan said...

Great to see these schools up and running. A minor correction - Bro Edern has only been operational for a year, and during that time has been housed on the Glantaf site (and not at Plasmawr).

Dylan said...

I had a look at the Treganna site a couple of weeks ago, and it looks truly magnificent. Best of luck to all staff and pupils!

But the whole saga is not at an end, sadly. The Treganna saga has impacted on neighbouring Ysgol Pwll Coch in various ways which are still ongoing. Cardiff Council had planned to solve some of the problems in Pwll Coch's extensive catchment by building a new WM school in Grangetown. In July, it dropped those plans, intending instead to give priority to EM schools based not on current need (which it admits is greater for WM than EM) but on projections involving future housing developments.

Tan yr eos, which closed in July, was located in Grangetown. Although it started as a Treganna overflow the latest published statistics showed that only 1 in 6 of its pupils came from the Treganna catchment, with half coming from Pwll Coch's. Many of those came from Grangetown. So in July Grangetown had the double whammy of losing both Tan yr eos and the new school which had long been promised. The Council wishes to extend Pwll Coch to be 3FE, i.e. 630 pupils + nursery. It's only a few hundred yards from Treganna, which as you note will be Wales' largest primary. Access to these two schools in Canton will be very difficult for many, especially for those from parts of Grangetown and Butetown. (Pwll Coch's catchment stretches from the Barrage to Llandaff Fields, including even parts of Cathays.) While Canton will have 1,260 WM places, Riverside, Grangetown and Butetown (large parts of which are Communities First areas) will have between them precisely zero.

Cardiff's decision to drop the WM school in Grangetown was considered by a scrutiny committee yesterday. In farcical circumstances, the meeting was called off part-way through when the Cabinet member for education asked the committee to send her own policy back to Cabinet. In a sense that it was what campaigners for the Grangetown school wanted, but it meant that the Council's original decision and the reasons for it were not subjected to any kind of scrutiny. It would be an understatement to say that due process was ignored.

It appears that the Cabinet now plans to draw up a consultation which will include both WM and EM. In other words, it seems that they intend to set the interests of EM against those of WM and to let that all play out in public.

So we're looking at Treganna saga mark two, played out this time in Grangetown and Butetown.

There's a great deal more to be said, but for now I'll just draw readers' attention to a facebook page that's been set up by Ymgyrch TAG (Tre-biwt a Grangetown):
Any comments or suggestions (or 'likes'!) would be appreciated.

MH said...

Thank you for picking me up on those points, Dylan. Now fixed.

I am aware of what's happening in Grangetown too. It would be very odd indeed to have two three form entry Welsh-medium schools, larger than any other primary schools in Wales, within 500m of each other.

In one respect, at least Cardiff Council's proposal of a few weeks ago addressed the problem of ancillary capacity at Pwll Coch. It was originally built as a 1FE school, then expanded to become a 2FE school, but without increasing the size of the hall, kitchen and other facilities. With the latest temporary accommodation making it a 3FE school, these facilities are now only a third of the size they need to be. So if building work increases the size of the hall, kitchen etc, at least Pwll Coch can function as a 3FE school.

The practical problem is that it's in the wrong place ... it should be in Grangetown (or maybe just across the river in Butetown). The political problem is that Cardiff have received money and permission from the Welsh Government permission to build a 1FE Welsh medium school ... and that they therefore cannot change their minds and use it for an English-medium school instead. Undertaking a new consultation might sound reasonable, but isn't going to change what has already been agreed. It sounds like squirming to me.

The "dark forces of the political underworld" I referred to seem to want to do all in their power to halt the increase in Welsh medium education in Cardiff. They do exactly the same in Caerffili, in Merthyr, in Blaenau Gwent and elsewhere. So we'll have another battle on our hands over Grangetown ... but I think it's one we can win, because the numbers are on our side. I'm certainly up for that battle.


Looking back over the Treganna saga, the advice I would offer is not to put all our effort into fighting for just one outcome. There is more than one way to skin a cat. If we don't get a new WM primary in Grangetown, let's make sure we get a WM primary in Butetown instead. If the fourth WM secondary isn't in the north of the city, let's make sure we get one in the south of the city, perhaps even one shared with the Vale, instead. It's hard to see a new WM secondary being built in the rural Vale, but a new WM secondary serving south Cardiff and Penarth would perhaps be a better option for expanding provision in the Vale than increasing the size of Bro Morgannwg, as well as being a good option for Cardiff.

In a perverse way, the fact that so much blood was shed over Treganna allowed new WM primaries to be set up at Nant Caerau, Pen y Pîl and Glan Ceubal with hardly any opposition. So perhaps we should be looking for new WM primaries in Rhiwbeina, and Birchgrove, and Cyncoed, as well as fighting over Grangetown. Getting two or three out of four is a better result than getting one out of one.

Anonymous said...

"The dark forces of the political underworld" am I to assume this means the anti-Welsh labour party?

MH said...

It's not as simple as saying that the Labour party are anti-Welsh, Anon. It's better to say that there are elements within the Labour party who are anti-Welsh. There are also elements in the Labour party who are undoubtedly pro-Welsh, particularly at national rather than local level, for it was Labour ministers in the Welsh Government that gave both approval and money to built a new WM school in Grangetown ... and they will not be at all pleased with a council going against what they have approved.

As a generalization, it might be better to say that most Labour councillors in Cardiff don't particularly care one way or the other about Welsh-medium education. They care about education, both English- and Welsh-medium, and support what they perceive is best for their constituents. The U-turn seems to be based on two premises: that there is only one suitable site in Grangetown, and that the growth in population will leave a shortage of English-medium places. If you accept those two premises, then it becomes understandable to think that the new school should be English-medium rather than Welsh-medium.

The problem is that both those premises are not supported by the evidence. With regard to the site, it is telling that the Labour administration will not identify what that site is. In my opinion, there is certainly more than one site available, which means that (if necessary) two schools could be built, the WM school already approved and a new EM school as well. With regard to increasing numbers, I think nobody doubts that more school places will be needed, but it is questionable to assume that only 25% of those new places will need to be WM. The pattern in Cardiff is of continued growth in demand for WM education, not that it will stop at an arbitrary ceiling of 25%.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a number of times that the decision to change to building an EM school and expanding Pwll Coch were based on dodgy figures, but what were these figures?
It's been a long used stalling tactic by those against expanding provision to use 'current' figures rather than likely future demand (which almost never even accounts for the latent demand which is ignited when a new local Welsh school is opened in the local area!).
The other common tactic which seems likely to be at play here is that even though a year on year increase can be shown in the past, they then insist that this shows that they have answered the demand and it is likely to stay at this for the future!
DO you have any figure for the % of pupils starting in Yr.1 in WM vs EM in Cardiff for the last 5 years? Or know how I can find them?

MH said...

It will take a bit of digging to get the figures for Grangetown, but I did get a detailed critique of them from RhAG.

The Year 1 numbers you asked for are a little easier. The relevant figures for all schools are on this page of StatsWales. You get the figures for different years (back to 2003/04) from a drop down menu by clicking the "Year" box.

I find it's easiest to download the data as spreadsheets by clicking the "Export" icon.

The figures for Cardiff schools are towards the bottom, prefixed 681. Then it's a matter of doing a bit of cutting and pasting.

Dylan said...

Diolch MH. You're right that various options need to be considered, and the campaign is based on both Butetown and Grangetown (Tre-biwt a Grangetown > TAG).

One of the main problems with the Council's plans was that they set actual and current demand for WM against possible or projected demand for EM (based on housing developments which have not been built, or even given planning permission in some cases). Their own document admitted that by September 2015 there would be no EM shortfall, but that there would be a problem for WM:

The plan to increase Pwll Coch does provide extra numbers for WM. But it would concentrate WM education in the relatively well-off area of Canton while leaving the Communities First areas of west Cardiff without easy access to WM education. Walking four miles to school and back twice a day is simply not going to be an option for many working families in those areas. So a school for Grangetown is as much about equality of opportunity as it is about numbers in WM education.

MH said...

Diolch, Dylan. That's the document I was going to dig out. I completely agree that travel is a proportionately greater problem for more disadvantaged communities, and that (certainly in cities) WM provision needs to be provided within reasonable walking distance.

I haven't yet done my own analysis of the figures, but I'm sure it will be OK if I quote some of RhAG's comments about them that were sent to me in an email a few weeks ago. It's a bit long, so I've had to split it into two parts.:


Cardiff have disclosed the total increase in cohort across the city from the lowest point (c 3400) to the most recent total (c4100). I believe these figures.

They then give PROJECTIONS for admissions in Canton/Riverside/Grangetown for 2012/2013/2014/2015 for EM and WM. Why use projections for 2012 and 2013 when final ACTUAL figures are available for 2012 and almost final figures for 2013 subject to late admissions)

The PROJECTED figures for 2012 and 2013 for WM are 141 and 137 while the actual are 147 and 154 with a strong probability that quite a few of the 10 unplaced applicants for WM will end up at Pwll Coch that has 26 empty places thereby increasing the 154. Nant Caerau school has for the last 2 years had 40 applicants for 30 places and Cardiff has refused to accede to RhAG's demand for a temporary provision on the Glynderw site under the wing of Nant Caerau's head until a permanent new school can be opened in Ely Mill which will be needed for the 700 house development under way there and must be financed by the developers. An EM school will not be needed as Cardiff admits the existence of 60 empty places in EM in Canton (hardly surprising as Radnor Infants building + 2/3 classdrooms at Radnor Primary "kindly lent" to Treganna revert to EM + all the empty classrooms at Severn are also available).

An ACTUAL figure for 2013 of 154+ casts doubt on the PROJECTED figures for WM of 155 and 165 for 2014 and 2015; I think 170 and 185/7 are more realistic based on a consistent 10% per annum increase in the area since 2006 (when the provision of 90 places could not cope with a demand for 106 places so that 16 parents had to face offers of places all over the place). Cardiff therefore opened Tan yr eos in 2007 (30 places) put a temporary extra stream into Pwll Coch in 2011 (30 places) and designed the new Treganna to open in 2013 with 90 places (+30places). Opening Grangetown WM in 2015 would deal nicely with adding a further 30 places (total 210) to cope with a demand which I project at 185/7 plus probable overflow from Nant Caerau of 10+ and growth at Ely Mill and other new build at Bessemer Fruit Market and Sports Village.

Continued in next comment ...

MH said...

... Continuation from previous comment

I am afraid that I cannot give you a similar analysis of the EM figures except to say that Cardiff have probably got the numbers of births right and they are realistic in calculating that in Canton ETC the whole cohort currently divides about 75%EM/25%WM but wrong in making no adjustments for continuing linguistic shift towards WM. Since the WM total for 2013 is not going to be less than 154 it follows that the EM total is overstated by at least 17 and likewise the 2015 projection for EM must include 20 children who should be in the WM projection and this may well be crucial.

Cardiff's figures for EM shortfall of places are totally confused. In one place they say that the total shortfall of places is 72 but that the biggest problem is in Grangetown. Elsewhere they say that by 2015 without reorganisation they will be short of 57 EM places in Grangetown. They accept that 30 places pa fall vacant at Ninian Park by the vacation of the Tan yr Eos places there. 27 places to find. They concede that there are 60 places available in Canton/Riverside after placing all local children and ignoring "immigrants" from Ely. They concede that 15 children from Grangetown could be accommodated in Canton/Riverside schools by altering catchment boundaries. 12 places to find.

Cardiff 's response is that to find 12 places for Grangetown children in EM education WM education should be deprived of any provision in Grangetown and WM children should be obliged to trek to Leckwith (to say nothing of the fact that a 1FE school in Grangetown could be expanded to a 2FE school very likely to be needed by 2019/2020 whereas Pwll Coch can hardly be expanded to 4FE). However please note my calculation that EM numbers are inflated by 20 by underestimating WM numbers and suddenly the shortfall of 12 places becomes non-existent.

For the reasons given I believe that the EM demand in Grangetown can be met by marginal transfers into Canton/Riverside, using the space vacated at Ninian Park and not counting as EM children who will in fact choose WM. I leave out of account that opening a LOCAL WM school always leads to an increase in WM demand. There has of course been a WM school in Grangetown since 2007 i.e. Tan yr Eos and this has increased the WM demand.

MH said...

I've had time to do some very quick calculations on the question 14:09 asked. But rather than compare the Year 1 size for each year, these are the figures for each year group in 2012/13. This will give roughly the same information, but saves a lot of work.

The figures are for the whole of Cardiff, to do it on an area-by-area basis will take a lot more work. The WM figures include Gwaelod y Garth, which is Dual Stream but with a bigger Welsh than English stream. Special schools have been omitted when calculating WM as a percentage of the total.

Reception ... 670 in WM ... 15.89% of total
Year 1 ... 616 in WM ... 15.04% of total
Year 2 ... 568 in WM ... 14.79% of total
Year 3 ... 524 in WM ... 13.98% of total
Year 4 ... 508 in WM ... 14.63% of total
Year 5 ... 471 in WM ... 13.51% of total
Year 6 ... 430 in WM ... 12.71% of total

Year 7 ... 396 in WM ... 11.84% of total
Year 8 ... 373 in WM ... 11.31% of total
Year 9 ... 382 in WM ... 11.42% of total
Year 10 ... 388 in WM ... 10.95% of total
Year 11 ... 370 in WM ... 10.69% of total

Year 12 ... 228 in WM ... 12.76% of total
Year 13 ... 207 in WM ... 15.36% of total

With only a couple of blips, the picture is one of continual growth in WM education, but with the rate of growth increasing in recent years.

It's also very interesting to note the sixth form figures (Years 12 and 13). They show that a far higher proportion of those in WM education stay on to do A levels compared with those in EM education.

Lyndon said...

The blip for years 12 and 13 is due to some EM Cardiff schools not having sixth forms.

Ysgol y Wern in Llanishen seems to be permanently 3FE now, though I haven't seen any formal announcement (or consultation, for that matter).

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. So over a period of a decade, there's been a 40% or so increase in numbers choosing WM education.

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