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Cabinet makes rulings on Cardiff catchment area changes

Fitzalan High School on Lawrenny Avenue, Canton

CARDIFF Council shelved a proposed change to English-medium catchment areas last night, but a change to Welsh-medium catchment areas is set to go ahead.

The cabinet cancelled plans to feed Radnor and Lansdowne primary school pupils into Cantonian High School. Instead they will continue to feed into Fitzalan High School.

Plans to feed pupils from Ysgol Pencae into Ysgol Glantaf rather than Ysgol Plasmawr are set to be implemented in September 2017, despite a largely negative response to consultation.

The changes to English-medium catchment areas have been abandoned because of “significant concerns,” according to the Cabinet Member of Education Sarah Merry.

The council received 451 responses to consultation, of which 437 were opposed. A petition against the plan received 460 signatures.

Councillor Merry said: “There was a degree of uncertainty among parents we consulted.

“We want to match demand to supply,  to deal with excessive demand for places at Fitzalan and insufficient demand for places at Cantonian.

“There have been significant concerns raised and what we’re currently proposing is not to continue. We thought there was a degree of uncertainty about a number of factors there.

“We are suggesting we look at a wider array of options for schools in the area.”

But Cardiff Council’s Director of Education Nick Batchelar insisted there was still a need to consider change.

He said: “We have taken very careful note of responses, but this is a significant issue and it has not gone away. The excess of demand over supply at Fitzalan High School is still there.

“We will be coming back to this very important issue. It needs to be grappled with.”

The Fitzalan4Cantonian campaign group celebrated the news that the changes would be shelved in a statement on Facebook.

It said: “Thank you all for your support and to our local Canton councillors for their invaluable efforts and to the other councillors who agreed this proposal should not go ahead.

“Nick Batchelar, Director of Education, said at the cabinet meeting that the significant issue of supply vs. demand has not gone away, so we are keeping this page and our Twitter page open in case there is further work to do as the council explore other options.

“But for now we are pleased that Fitzalan, Radnor and Lansdowne catchments remain as they are, as does the opportunity for those kids to access their local school if they so wish.”

Councillor Diane Rees questioned why the changes to Welsh-medium catchment areas were set to go ahead after a negative response to consultation.

There were 368 responses to the consultation, of which 281 were opposed. A pupil petition against received 471 signatures.

Councillor Rees said: “I’d like to know why the changes to Welsh-medium catchments are still going ahead.

“The consultation revealed there was a vast majority opposing, and not much less of a majority than there was against the changes to English-medium catchments.

“A pupil petition against the changes with 471 signatures has also been ignored.”

Councillor Merry defended her decision to support the plans.

She said: “When we consult we are doing it in a genuine fashion. We want to weigh up opinion. But we don’t have to let it completely drive the decision-making process.

“I can sympathise with parents whose children are transferring to secondary school, having been through the process myself. I understand that any change to catchment areas could potentially be unsettling and disturbing for the parents.

“But change is always going to bring a degree of resistance. That does not mean we never consider changes to catchment areas.

“If we do not make these changes then suddenly some parents will find they have not got a place at the school they were hoping for.”