A MAJOR £50 million project to improve Cardiff schools was given the go-ahead at last night’s council cabinet meeting.
Following months of consideration, work can now begin to address the demand for school places in the city, as well as expanding and improving existing sites.
Cabinet member Sarah Merry said she was delighted the plans were moving forward.
“Cardiff historically has had very poor educational standards but we’ve really started to turn that round.
“We’ve gone several places up the rankings in the past couple of years but this represents a real sea change in our education system as a capital city.
“We’ve got huge challenges because we’ve got a very mobile population and a lot of children, as well as huge areas of deprivation in the capital city, so we’re hoping to use the advantages of being a capital city to really kick-start improvement in our schools.”
Ely and Caerau
A major point of the plan is to improve the quality of education in the west of the city, particularly in Ely and Careau, two of the most deprived areas in Cardiff.
Michaelston Community College and Glyn Derw High School will be replaced with a brand new high school to be built on the Glyn Derw site.
In 2011 the schools became the first in Wales to federate, meaning they are governed by a single board of governors and the same head teacher.
When plans for the merger were released last February Estyn, the body responsible for inspecting standards of education in Wales, assessed both schools.
Its report said: “Both Glyn Derw High School and Michaelston Community College are currently experiencing a number of challenges including poor outcomes, surplus places, significant budget deficits and substandard accommodation for pupils.”
Despite improved ratings in recent years, the schools still require improvements and it is hoped that the new plan will help increase the quality of education in the area.
Cardiff West Assembly Member Mark Drakeford and Cardiff West Member of Parliament Kevin Brennan support the plan.
In a joint statement, they said: “There is an urgent need to improve the provision of secondary education in the Caerau and Ely areas. We therefore support the Council’s efforts as set out in the consultation document.”
Coun Merry agrees that the new high school will “represent a big investment in the city”.
“There’s no doubt that if you’ve got children that are going into substandard school buildings without the right facilities then it sends the wrong message to those children about the value of education.
“If you’re putting them into state of the art school classrooms with excellent sporting facilities and opportunities for extra curricular activities you transform the expectations for those children.
“The building will also be available to the community, with new sporting facilities and sections of the building that can be used for community events.
“We’re hoping the new school will become a flagship school, and an example of the kind of education we want to offer to Cardiff.”
What does this mean for your area?
Gabalfa & Llandaff North
Developments for Gabalfa and Llandaff North have been designed to “serve future expansion of primary school education in the area”, according to Coun Merry.
“It’s unusual to build a one-form [one class per year group] entry school at the moment, so although you will have two one-form entry schools we’re going to design it back-to-back so potentially they could become one two-form entry school in the future.
“We’re trying to future-proof the design to serve future expansion of primary school education in the area.”
The schools in question are Gabalfa Primary School and Ysgol Glan Ceubal with the latter due to establish a Welsh-language nursery.
Adamsdown & Splott
In Adamsdown and Splott, plans for a new two-form Welsh-medium school have been given the green light and Coun Merry believes it will “regenerate part of the ward”.
“At the moment children are having to go right outside the catchment area to get a primary school place – we know there’s a shortage of English and Welsh places in the area and this will hopefully address that issue.
“The local councillor is very supportive of because it’s seen as a very run-down area.”
Butetown, Riverside, Grangetown & Canton
Lastly a new Welsh-medium school will open on the grounds of the old Royal Hamadryad hospital in Butetown, to serve Canton, Grangetown, Butetown and Riverside.
The school will have a capacity for 420 pupils and will open in September next year.
The capacity at Ninian Park Primary School will also expand to three classes per year group to address the demand for more English-medium places.
These developments, part of the 21st Century Schools Programme, is part funded by the Welsh Government.
Coun Merry is pleased the plans are continuing without any major obstacles.
“The huge expansion of school places in Cardiff along with other developments will play a big part in regenerating areas, improving community facility areas and the creation of more jobs.”