Saturday, July 3 2010
It was wrong – so please stop arguing
CARDIFF council started a legal process to reduce the capacity of Whitchurch High School. It has now been abandoned following “advice” from WAG.
According to the WAG press release, Cardiff council accepted “it had published the notice in error”We all get things wrong sometimes. Most of us bank it under “experience”. We don’t then argue otherwise… unless of course it happens to be Councillor Berman (“Plans suffer setback after council bungle”, Echo, June 22).
He is quoted as saying: “Sadly this process will give the community less ability to comment and the council regrets that the original statutory notice cannot be proceeded with.“It is regrettable and inexplicable why the minister… should choose to make a statement on a legal matter.”But the council withdrew the notice. The sheer brazenness of these utterances reveals their shallowness. I make two points:the curtailed period of consultation for option 4 in Whitchurch was contemptuous to those affected. The concern about ability to comment by Councillor Berman is at odds with what was experienced in that process;would Councillor Berman rather the minister not comment, receive objections and then reject it in, say, six months’ time because it was legally flawed? Surely the minister is to be congratulated on early intervention.Withdrawal of the high school notice also calls into question the legality of the related notice for primary school reorganisation in Whitchurch.Huw EvansChairman of Governors, Eglwys Newydd Primary School
Consultation’s a two-way process
HERE we go again, our leader Councillor Rodney Berman criticising Leighton Andrews, Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning, for issuing a statement in relation to the Whitchurch proposals.
He should not be criticising, he should be apologising for, in the words of an Eglwys Newydd parent, “the council’s inconsistencies and lack of attention to detail”.
Now parents and staff might be subject to more delays and uncertainty due to the council’s ineptitude.
As leader he must take the ultimate responsibility and this once again emphasises the shortcomings of his administration. How much taxpayers’ money has been wasted through not listening to the people that we as councillors all represent on issues such as the siting of the proposed school in the east of Cardiff.
The Canton fiasco and now the Whitchurch disaster. What should have been taken into account is the unwillingness to roll over and accept the one-sided proposals put forward to the citizens of Cardiff.
Consultation is a two-way exercise: speak and listen, not speak, listen and ignore.
We await, but not with our breath held for some kind of apology. Some chance!
The last word must go to Jan Pycroft, of the Save Eglwys Newydd Action Group, when she says: “I can’t believe their incompetence.”
Councillor Derrick Morgan, Councillor Heather Joyce, Councillor Jackie Parry
Ward Councillors for Llanrumney
WAG stood up to the council – Wednesday 23rd June 2010
THERE has been much debate about the recent decision not to approve school reorganisation plans in Canton, but I would like to applaud WAG for standing up to a council that often rides rough shod over public opinion.
Being cynical, one might suggest that Cardiff council has whipped up a political row to cover the fact that their proposals were not robust enough to withstand detailed scrutiny. I have sympathy with Welsh-medium parents but they are laying the blame at the wrong door.
The reorganisation proposals for Whitchurch have strong similarities to Canton, and parents are rightly fighting to stop the closure of popular and successful English-medium schools.
However these parents have also acknowledged the need for improved Welsh medium accommodation and have urged Cardiff council to spend much of the £13m earmarked to solve the problem now.
But Cardiff council refuses to take immediate action even when an amicable, lower cost solution is handed to them on a plate.
Giving more power to local authorities who do not listen or act responsibly with public money is a dangerous road to follow.
Your hypocrisy is staggering – Tuesday 15th June
I HAVE no motivation to come to the aid of any political party, but I have to admit to the slightest of sympathy towards Councillors Patel, Cook and Furlong following Councillor Neil McEvoy’s letter (Viewpoints, June 11).
His hypocrisy is staggering. His council officers were invited to attend a public meeting to discuss option four in Whitchurch, but refused to attend.
His council has received numerous Freedom of Information requests relating to the schools reorganisation in Whitchurch that have gone ignored.
His council executive committee was asked to look at an alternative plan for Whitchurch at its meeting of April 8. The deputy and leader gave it no time whatsoever. Now he demands attendance, information and ideas? When leaders accuse and do not lead, they do not, for good reason, lead for much longer.
Outburst unfair on Carwyn – Saturday 12th June 2010
I WAS concerned with Councillor McEvoy’s outburst concerning the First Minister’s decision to reject school proposals for Canton.
To accuse the First Minster of making the decision for party political advantage, “blighting” Wales and not having “read up adequately on the topic” is undignified.
Having read the Canton decision letter and the accompanying report, I think the comments are unjustified.
The decision, although in the First Minister’s name, was made on behalf of WAG ministers. They comprise Labour and Plaid members – so his own party is associated with the decision.
The decision letter and report are thorough, even-handed and considered – something at odds with how the decision is being portrayed by Cardiff Executive members.
The First Minister felt that English medium education in Canton was potentially compromised. I can relate to that in a Whitchurch context.
Eglwys Newydd Primary School site is adjacent to Whitchurch High School lower site. There are excellent working and transition arrangements between the two schools. That very proximity fosters shared identity and has educational value. Closing Eglwys Newydd and relocating Ysgol Melin Gruffydd to that site destroys this. I can’t speak for Welsh medium friends, but I question the educational rationale of placing a Welsh medium primary school next to an English medium secondary school.
I am not questioning the need for fit-for-purpose Welsh medium education in Whitchurch – I am questioning the choice of location from where it is intended to be provided.
The First Minister has responded robustly. If people take the time to read the decision documentation, they may side with him.
Chair of Governors, Eglwys Newydd Primary School
Do they fear a Whitchurch rejection? – Saturday 29th May 2010
THE council has published its statutory notice to downsize Whitchurch High School and close Eglwys Newydd Primary just days before we learn their proposals for Lansdowne and Treganna have been rejected by WAG.
One wonders if their approach to Freedom of Information requests is because they fear a similar rejection in Whitchurch.
The council has repeatedly been asked for detailed information on their projection figures and how they have been determined. From October 2009 to date they have failed to respond with this information. Without this, how can we trust their own projections have not been changed twice through errors or just to suit their option 4 afterthought?
Latest figures (January 2010) on pupils attending schools by catchment area are “not likely to be available for several months due to software issues we are experiencing”. The January 2009 figures they have supplied suggest that with the increasing birth rate, the new 2.5FE English-medium school in Whitchurch will be over capacity in just a couple of years.
These questions are just a few of those submitted to which incomplete, late or no response has been given. How can we have any confidence in the council’s processes or what lies behind the decisions when this is how they treat requests for information we have a legal entitlement to receive?
The council’s press release on the Lansdowne/Treganna decision suggests Mr Berman is apoplectic at not getting his way and again he quotes concerns in the Welsh-medium community. Mr Berman, there are concerns in the English-medium community too. It gives us hope that WAG is prepared to stand up and exercise its duties to protect all of our children’s education.
At the April 8 council exec meeting, Mr Berman rejected a request from a Plaid member to consider alternative proposals because “we need to do something now”. Yes, he does need to quickly sort out the issues the council has long ignored in the Welsh-medium sector and the serious wastage in other areas of the city.
To get majority rather than minority support his council’s proposals need to designed to fix problems where they exist but do not create new issues where currently there are none.
Officers appear to lead the way – Friday 7th May 2010
I ATTENDED the Cardiff executive business meeting on April 8, at which it was decided to proceed with Option 4 for school reorganisation in Whitchurch.
I came away astonished at the lack of debate and consideration of issues. Legitimate concerns about the (lack of) educational benefit of the option, or the adequacy of the consultation, were not addressed in any meaningful way. The option was effectively rubber-stamped and adopted by the executive.
Despite earlier involvement by the schools’ sub-committee, Option 4 has been officer-driven as far as I can see. Proceedings on the day reinforced this view. My experience that this council is officer-led chimes with other people’s experience.
I have not voted for these officers – yet their will prevails. With government at WAG or UK level, this would not be possible because officers are civil servants and strict protocols apply.
Officers advise and implement but do not create and lead on policy. There is good reason for this, and the same principles should apply to local government – it is tied in with a thing called democracy and accountable governance.
Local schools for local pupils – Saturday 17th February 2010
I HAVE received a missive from the Lib-Dems of Heath ward. The front page denounces the “Tory School Threat”.
It contains a list of suppositions and some of the most flagrant untruths that I have read in a long time. It is an absolute disgrace for councillors to peddle such inflammatory comments. This sort of scaremongering is misleading and shameful.
The Lib-Dems claim that the application by Whitchurch High School (WHS) for foundation status is to introduce a selective admissions policy, to threaten the sustainability of other local high schools and the expansion of Welsh-medium schools in the area and to miss out on local authority investment. What a load of bunkum!
Councillor Fenella Bowden actually has the audacity to claim that “many parents of children in primary schools within the catchment area were not consulted at all”. Well I, for one, as a concerned parent, can remember attending such a consultation meeting held at WHS on September 9, 2009, to discuss the same.
Maybe Ms Bowden was unaware of what was occurring within her constituency at the time and therefore did not make efforts to attend and so was unable to answer some of her constituents’ concerns when confronted.
The governors at WHS invited all heads and chairs of governors at all the partner primaries to explain their decision and advise them of the dates and times of the open meetings. If this information was not disseminated, then I do not think WHS is to blame.
Cardiff council is looking to reduce the intake at WHS, which would lead to 600 local children being denied a place at their local high school. How is the ideal of “local schools for local children” being served by these plans?
Berman wrong on education – Saturday 17th February 2010
MR RODNEY Berman has shown a remarkable misjudgement in his letter to the Echo (Viewpoints, February 22).
To start with, he should review his own council’s statistics before dismissing the rights and feelings of genuinely concerned parents. The council figures show:
Around 10% of Eglwys Newydd and Wen pupils come from outside the combined catchment areas;
around 50% of Melin Gruffydd pupils come from outside the combined Eglwys Newydd and Wen catchment areas;
54 pupils out of 159 (33%) at the Welsh primary in Gwaelod Y Garth are “not mapped” because they are bussed in from Rhondda Cynon Taff to make the school viable – historically there wasn’t sufficient provision in RCT, but now there is.
The 10% of pupils from outside the catchment area at the English schools are simply the result of the exercise of parental choice, just like Welsh-speaking parents who choose Melin Grufydd, rights we should all continue to benefit from. The rising pupil number projections from the Assembly show that a 2.5FE school will not be sufficient if parents continue to be able to exercise their right to choice, so excess places are not really the issue.
If Mr Berman wants to see a school that “provides the best possible opportunities for our children and young people to achieve their potential”, then he ought to visit Eglwys Newydd before he tries to close it. He might then realise he has a school in his city to which others (around Wales) can look to and learn from. (He must be aware of the Assembly’s Schools Effectiveness Framework policy?)
And if he does not, he ought to look to other areas of Cardiff to find funds to expand Welsh medium education, such as Cathays High, which has nearly 60% coming to it from out of catchment and large numbers of excess places (source: www.cardiff.gov.uk).
Communities driven apart?
THE latest school reorganisation proposals make me question whether Cardiff council is intentionally driving a wedge between English and Welsh- speakers in Cardiff.
The plan sees the closure of yet another successful and popular English-medium school in order that it can be given over to Welsh- medium education, plus they are to get £4.9m to improve it.
Surely it would be better to use the money to extend and improve Ysgol Melin Gruffydd on its current site shared with Eglwys Wen Primary School? This way Welsh and English-speakers could integrate, plus it gives flexibility to vary the accommodation should there be a fall in demand for Welsh-medium education.
There’s not even any reliable evidence for this massive disruption to children’s education. Cardiff council has yet to survey future demand for Welsh medium education, the birth rate is no longer falling and they have admitted that there are few surplus places in Whitchurch. Add to this the fact that more than a quarter of Ysgol Melin Gruffydd pupils come from outside the Welsh catchment area and you have to ask – what happened to “local schools for local children”?
I hope the council employs some common sense before it damages community relationships.
We are losing green space – Thursday 14th January 2010
I WAS dismayed to hear Councillor Bowden (Viewpoints, December 29) refer to land to be sold at Whitchurch High School as “small”, inferring that it is insignificant.
The land in question is in fact 50% of the rugby pitches at the lower school and a large proportion of the playing field, and it is of great significance to pupils for physical exercise and sporting opportunities.
What Coun Bowden omitted to mention is that the council also plans to sell playing fields at Whitchurch primary schools with up to 8.15 acres of school land earmarked for disposal. This is the equivalent to 3.5 millennium stadium rugby pitches. I don’t call that small and would suggest that Coun Bowden is the one misleading residents.
Coun Bowden also refers to the Powerleague site, suggesting that the school has already disposed of land – but there is no comparison. Powerleague is a valued sporting venue used extensively by pupils and the community, and is developed on what was effectively waste land. The council proposals include no such facility and it estimates the land could be used to build as many as 165 residential units.
I worry what this means for my grandchildren as more and more green space disappears.
If the council thinks it is acceptable to sell school playing fields for housing, is any green space safe?
King George V Drive, Heath, Cardiff
Don’t take the playing fields – Thursday 14th January
I REFER to letters from Councillor Salway (Viewpoints, December 18) and Councillor Bowden (Viewpoints, December 29) regarding school re-organisation in Whitchurch.
Coun Salway explains that of the 18.5 acres of the high school lower site, 2.25 acres would be disposed of; and of the 18.8 acres of the upper site, one acre would go. The implication is that the sale is not of consequence. But Coun Salway has referred the whole site areas.
If the area is confined to playing fields, a different picture emerges. For disposal at the lower site, one rugby pitch is lost, out of two.
Coun Salway mentions that four acres of the lower site is occupied by a “leased football facility”. Coun Bowden states that the leasing itself is a disposal of the land by the school, with the implication that there is inconsistency in the school objecting to council disposal when it has done the same.
That land fell into disuse through lack of investment by the council. It was a “dogs’ toilet”. The school now has use during the school day, and the community at other times. It works well and is an asset to Whitchurch. The land is used for recreational activity where before it wasn’t.
Both letters conveniently ignore the proposed sale of playing fields on primary school sites – again a substantial disposal and loss to the community.
Research confirms levels of child activity are causing increased concern for health and well-being; for example, the recent British Heart Foundation report Couch Kids: The Nation’s Future…
Interestingly, that report also suggests possible links between physical activity and fitness in childhood to academic achievement.
So, executive members, disposal of land as suggested would be an act of folly. It would fly in the face of your own Cardiff Children & Young People’s Plan.
It’s not too late to abandon this nonsense.
Chair of Governors,
Eglwys Newydd Primary School
Council inmuddle overschool plans – Saturday 14th November 2009
THE consultation period for school re-organisation proposals in Whitchurch is October 9 to December 18.
Through council fault, the consultation document was placed online but hard copies were not distributed to parents until just before half-term (and schools had inset days either side). Consultation meetings began after the break. The documentation was intended to be distributed on October 9.
On the council webpage the document link also states “corrected as at 20/10/2009” – but what was “incorrect”?
Hard copies referred to drop-in sessions at local libraries that had already taken place. Further sessions had been added but the covering letter explained this as having been prompted by “the level of interest already generated” – no mention of curing deficiencies in process.
I have seen issue 6 of 21st Century Schools. The front page states consultation “will take place from October 9…” – clearly prepared before that date. Yet inside, the timetable for consultation mentions nothing of first drop-in sessions but includes ones added after October 9.
The “case” presented is selective and partial; for example, sale of land. Sale of part of Whitchurch High School lower site is described as “small” – it is approximately half the playing field (two rugby pitches will be reduced to one).
In “We must kill trees to save Bute Park” (Echo, November 6) Professor Kevin Morgan says the council is not acting in the spirit of conservation. He also mentions the council “squandering… trust”. From my experience, I agree with him on both counts.
Huw Evans, Chairman of Governors, Eglwys Newydd Primary School
Foundation status backed – Saturday 14th November 2009
I WRITE in response to L Tallett’s letter (Viewpoints, November 6) in which Whitchurch High School governors are condemned for applying for foundation status.
As a parent of Whitchurch children I can assure you that there is enormous support for Whitchurch High School to be granted foundation status both from parents and the wider community. If any school in Cardiff can make a success of such status it will be Whitchurch.
The governors are attempting to safeguard more than 500 places and acres of school playing fields that will be lost if Cardiff County Council’s plans to reorganise schools in Whitchurch go ahead. Council officials at recent consultation meetings were unable to reassure parents that these 500 children could be guaranteed the same standard of education and opportunities in alternative schools.
As for criticising the school for being resourceful enough to lease some land to a private company for sport facilities, this space was previously unused except as a local dog toilet. It is now enjoyed by the school during weekdays and people from across the city during evenings and weekends.
If anyone has reservations about foundation status then visit Stanwell Road School in Penarth and see what success they have achieved.
Annelle Hawkins, parent from Whitchurch
Decisions not answered for – Saturday 14th November 2009
COUNCILLOR Freda Salway (Viewpoints, November 5) is clearly happy to write letters to the Echo outlining her hostility to Whitchurch schools but she and Coun Rodney Berman don’t face my constituents in the council’s consultation meetings.
I suppose this is to be expected in light of the anger being felt by families in Cardiff North, but I think it is disgraceful to avoid answering for the decisions that they are taking. Coun Salway says 20% of Whitchurch High School’s pupils come from outside the catchment area, which is in direct contradiction of the council’s policy of local schools for local children.
It’s not unusual for pupils to travel from outside the catchment area, particularly for secondary education, and this applies for other schools such as Cardiff High, Cathays, Cantonian and Fitzalan. If the council is seeking to reduce the size of Whitchurch to comply with the council’s policy will it be applying the same criteria to other schools?
If “local schools for local children” is to be applied then it should be uniformly, otherwise you will end up restricting access to Whitchurch High School while continuing to allow parental choice with the other high schools.
Jonathan Morgan – Assembly Member for Cardiff North
Foundation status a must for school (Wednesday, 28th October 2009)
I FELT it necessary to put in writing my support for the Whitchurch High School governing body’s application for Foundation Status (“School governor hits out at unions over opt-out claims”, October 23).
Your article clearly confirms that the 1960s union mentality still exists. What also exists is their ability to misrepresent information in order to influence their members. At the school meeting mentioned fewer than 25% of the staff were in attendance as the majority have already shown their support for the application for Foundation Status as its achievement would safeguard their jobs.
The unions are misrepresenting their own members. Shame on them.
Secondly, Whitchurch High School does not admit children from all over Cardiff as the county council, trade unions and your newspaper keep repeating. The school has the main special needs unit for Cardiff and hence the county council send children to it from all over Cardiff. The following figures taken from the County Councils own website are interesting: children from outside catchment – Whitchurch High 13.7%, Cathays High School 59%, Cantonian High School 44.7%, Cardiff High 21.4%. These figures speak for themselves.
Whitchurch High School is a school which has shown initiative in developing its curriculum and resources so that it is today among the best in Wales and I am delighted that this was recognised recently by Estyn.
It is essential that this quality of non-selective, true comprehensive education continues to be offered to all children in the Whitchurch area.
The excellence lies not only in its wide range of educational options at post-16 such as the Welsh and International Baccalaureate but also its thriving special needs unit. Special mention should also be made of the importance to the school of its very successful orchestra and it’s highly performing sportsmen.
Foundation Status will mean that the school has greater control over all aspects of its development and can continue to be a strong 12-form entry establishment thus securing the roles of the excellent teaching and non-teaching staff who have always strived to make the school the success it is today.
I sincerely hope that those with whom this decision rests have the vision and knowledge to grant Whitchurch High School Foundation Status and thus the freedom, support and encouragement that it deserves.
Heather Guy, Radyr
No sense in these plans (Wednesday, 28th October 2009)
THE council plans for Whitchurch High School will affect the whole community of Whitchurch and beyond, and do not make any sense at all.
There are no significant surplus places at the primary schools and while the council have spent the last two years revising their plans for the Whitchurch area, other schools with big surplus place issues have been left untouched.
The council want to dispose of land, while a national member of the Lib Dems criticises the Government for doing that very thing. Surely, tackling surplus places was supposed to save money, not selling off fields which encourage our children to exercise.
Maybe the council think they will be improving educational opportunities? I don’t see how putting my young daughter with a new teacher in a portable classroom, possibly at the bottom of the school field, will be of any benefit to her. If they use Eglwys Newydd as the new school and extend, they will fill the whole playground according to their plans. This reduces the exercise and play opportunities of our children.
I cannot see how getting rid of the portable classrooms in Melin Gruffydd and then having them in the new school solves a problem. Equal opportunities does not seem to apply with this council.
Also, enforcing catchment areas for Whitchurch schools, while other schools have more than 50% out of catchment intake is another inequality.
Whitchurch schools will then become less accessible. Will it be that you can only have your child educated in a Whitchurch school if you can afford to live in the area? Try buying a house in Whitchurch at the moment, the ones that are worth buying are under offer within days.
The council’s own figures show that only 70% of Melin Gruffydd pupils are within their catchment area, therefore a 1.5 entry school is sufficient. The overcrowding problem should be happening in Ysgol Pencae which is where most of the out of catchment children should be attending – but it is full.
Surely the need for more Welsh medium places is therefore a Llandaff/Fairwater problem/issue, not a Whitchurch one.
It costs just £2,964 to educate a child at Eglwys Newydd, yet some schools with big surplus place issues can cost between £8,000 – £13,000 per pupil. Why are these schools not being targeted? Why is a council trying to save money, prepared to run a Welsh medium starter class with six pupils? I would love to have my daughter in a class of six, better ratio than private school.
There are so many issues around these plans which I feel should be debated.
Bilingual plans need support (Wednesday, 28th October 2009)
WITH Cardiff Council’s consultation on the future of education in Whitchurch having started, I write to urge the good people of our great capital city to support the council’s plans to properly provide for bilingual education in our village, by expanding Ysgol Melin Gruffydd.
The demand for bilingual education in Cardiff has grown exponentially over the past decade and Whitchurch is leading the way.
Following years of short-term, piecemeal, decisions that resulted in 60 pupils admitted annually into a school designed for an intake of 30, the Council has finally grasped the nettle and proposed a clear, long-term plan for bilingual education in Whitchurch and they should be supported.
Whether you support options 1, 2 or 3 (which all advocate the expansion of Ysgol Melin Gruffydd) please participate in the consultation and make your voice heard by completing the consultation form found on the council’s website.
If you don’t know which option you prefer still complete the form and let the council know that you support the principle of the plans.
With 50% of the pupils at Ysgol Melin Gruffydd taught in temporary classrooms the time has now surely come for them to be accommodated on a campus that is fit for purpose.
Ashley Drake, Whitchurch
Downside of council’s plans (Monday, 2nd November 2009)
IN his recent letter (Viewpoints, October 28) Ashley Drake urges Cardiff residents to write to the council supporting its recent proposals as a means to provide better Welsh-medium education in Whitchurch.
I wonder if he would be so supportive of these plans if they involved selling off land at Glan Taff or Plasmawr? I wouldn’t see this as an option myself, as selling off any school land is wrong.
Accepting these proposals is accepting reduced parental choice, loss of land, overcrowding at the English-medium primary school, reduced sporting opportunities and more housing in an already congested village.
An alternative response form can be obtained by e-mailing email@example.com
This form acknowledges a need for expansion and improved facilities at Ysgol Melin Gruffydd, but not at the expense of any of the English-medium schools.
A parent from Whitchurch
Name and address supplied
Good work is undermined (Wednesday, 28th October 2009)
CARDIFF Council is proposing to reduce the number of schools in Whitchurch and reduce the size of our high school.
This direct attack on high educational standards in popular successful schools needs to be opposed because of the damage it will do.
I have launched an on-line petition at www.ipetitions.com/petition/supportwhitchurch schools and I am urging Echo readers to join our campaign to support our excellent local schools.
Cardiff council clearly does not wish to support successful schools and their proposals undermine the good work done by Whitchurch High, Eglwys Newydd & Eglwys Wen.
Assembly Member for Cardiff North
No letters from council yet (Wednesday, 21st October 2009)
IS THIS going to be a fair consultation process? I’ve heard on the grapevine that Cardiff council has set dates for consultation meetings relating to their plans to close two primary schools in Whitchurch and reduce the size of Whitchurch High.
However, we’ve had no formal notification from the council, no letters or notices at all.
What is the plan Cardiff council, leave it as late as possible so people find it difficult to arrange childcare?
I believe one of the dates even clashes with local bonfire night celebrations. If I am correct, the parent consultations will take place as follows:
November 3, Whitchurch High School; November 4, Eglwys Newydd Primary School (the same date as the Whitchurch Beavers/Cubs/Scouts Bonfire celebrations); November 9, Eglwys Wen Primary Schools.
However, I do not know if there is any intention to engage the wider community.
Come on Cardiff council, play fair and give parents and the community a bit of notice so we at least have the opportunity to give you our feedback, if you really want it.
Playing fields are important (June 10th 2009)
HAVING just read the Whitchurch Schools Sub-Committee Report (June 8, 2009), I feel very disappointed in the council’s approach to the entire school improvement project.
All three options for the school reorganisation of both primary and secondary provision in the Whitchurch area include the selling of school playing fields.
How can this be a part of a school improvement plan? It appears that the failure of Cardiff council to properly maintain school buildings over the past 20 years has led to this situation.
The council’s history with regard to education suggests that there would be no guarantee that 20 years later they would not be looking to sell off yet more playing fields.
Jane Hutt AM has successfully introduced the Healthy Schools Programme throughout Wales and fully understands the need for children to be involved in physical activity. Reducing school playing fields will surely be seen as a counteractive step to the Welsh Assembly’s efforts in this area.
Whitchurch Lower School has a field that is only just large enough for two winter rugby pitches and one summer athletics track.
By taking a proportion of this field they would grossly impact on the school’s ability to deliver the National Curriculum.
The field is also used by the community of Whitchurch on a regular basis. Whitchurch Upper School has a field that incorporates two rugby pitches and one football pitch. Both the school and the community use this land for cricket in the summer months. The football pitch is also used by both the school and community.
Eglwys Newydd’s playing field is also highly valued by both the school and the community.
I’m sure Melin Gruffydd and Eglwys Wen feel equally disturbed at the prospect of being left with little or no playing field.
The council’s proposal to sell off much-used land is a huge negative step towards the development of children and the community life of Whitchurch.
I would urge the council to rethink its proposals and instead of acting negatively, incorporate the need to develop healthy children. If these changes need to go ahead the capital needs to be raised elsewhere.
In the words of Jane Hutt, encouraging healthy living among our children and young people is vital as they are the future, and we must do all we can to give them the best start in life.
Selling off the playing fields of successful schools is not giving our future children the best start in life.
These fields are an attribute which strengthen the relationship between schools and communities, resulting in the raising of a child’s achievements and improvements in their motivation and self-esteem.
I believe the council would be negligent in its duties if it goes ahead with these proposals.
Andrea Waddington, Whitchurch