WHITCHURCH PARENTS FIGHT TO SAVE EGLWYS NEWYDD PRIMARY SCHOOL
11th February 2010
Call this Equality?
Parents at Eglwys Newydd Primary School in Whitchurch were furious today after Cardiff Council announced its latest school reorganisation proposals.
The new plan sees the closure of a popular and successful English medium school in order that a Welsh medium school can open in its place. Ysgol Melin Gruffydd would take over the buildings of Eglwys Newydd Primary School and benefit from a £4.9 million investment.
Meanwhile the English medium pupils would be transferred to another school with a much lesser investment of £2.2million. The combined English medium school would not be large enough to accommodate all pupils thus requiring the continued use of demountable classrooms.
Denise Sargent, parent at Eglwys Newydd said: “It beggars belief that any responsible authority would destroy a successful and popular school then move our children to sub-standard accommodation with portacabins for classrooms. And why does English medium education have to suffer for Welsh medium education to thrive – it shouldn’t be a case of one benefitting above the other and it’s causing a lot of bad feeling.”
Parents are concerned that this latest proposal does not consider or protect the high standards of education delivered by the school or address the fundamental problem that there will be insufficient school places to accommodate local children. With a rising birth rate, the council’s plan to slash the number of English medium primary school places is seriously flawed. Additionally, Whitchurch High will be reduced from 12 to 10 form entry which Governors have said is insufficient to accommodate all catchment area children.
That these proposals merely shift the problems of sub-standard accommodation at Ysgol Melin Gruffydd, problems caused by the council’s lack of strategy and funding of Welsh and English medium education in Cardiff, has raised the question of whether English medium education is suffering from bias brought about by the Lib Dem / Plaid coalition.
They also serve as a misguided attempt to alleviate problems of excess schools places and huge out of catchment attendance at schools in other wards, which should have been given priority in the council’s plans to reduce schools budget wastage.
On top of this there has been no consideration for the inevitable congestion and traffic chaos. Parents who chose the school nearest their home will have to drive children to a school on the other side of Whitchurch. The problem will be exasperated around the current Eglwys Newydd site as Welsh medium schools have a much larger catchment area and Ysgol Melin Gruffydd currently has over 26% of pupils attending from out of catchment. Residents living in the no through road around Eglwys Newydd will undoubtedly suffer from increased traffic and parking issues.
Sadiyah Hand, parent of three children in Whitchurch said: “There is no educational justification for closing two thriving English medium primary schools and this proposal is not based on proper research or accurate data.
It makes no sense to displace hundreds of children risking their education and causing traffic mayhem for the residents of Whitchurch. Cardiff Council has shown it has money available to expand the Welsh medium school on its current site or to even build a new Welsh medium school.”
Parents are being given just three weeks (inclusive of half term) to respond to the consultation with the closing date for objections being 5th March 2010. Many question the legality and the morality of such a short consultation by Cardiff Council.
All objections should be sent to: email@example.com or Schools & Lifelong Learning, Cardiff County Council, County Hall, Atlantic Wharf, Cardiff CF10 4UW
For press enquiries, contact Annelle Hawkins
Tel: 029 2030 1175 Mob: 07784 783085
Notes to editors:
The main objections are:
- The council has legal duties pertaining to equality of treatment but there is inequality in the investment packages for Welsh medium and English medium schools. The proposed English medium school is to be located in sub-standard accommodation with demountable classrooms maintained.
- There are major traffic issues in moving Welsh medium pupils into the English medium school and vice versa. Children will no longer be attending their nearest school, increasing the need to drive and the carbon footprint as well as contradicting ‘local schools for local children’. There is no evidence that traffic management and environmental impact consequences have been given proper consideration.
- Cardiff Council claims part of the rationale for the reorganisation is to meet the rising demand for Welsh medium education but there is still no evidence from any survey to establish actual need as projections are solely based on unreliable trend data. The council has a duty to exercise its powers reasonably taking consideration of properly researched and accurate data, and it is clearly not doing so.
- The council’s own Strategic Framework includes a statement that, “the interests of learners should override all others” yet there are still no educational benefits mentioned for English medium pupils. There would be a negative impact on education for pupils from Eglwys Newydd Primary School due to the disruption, fall in staff morale and moving to poorer standard accommodation.
- The council has a duty to undertake a legally robust and meaningful consultation process. A three week consultation across a holiday with no opportunity for clarification or to ask questions (as no meetings scheduled) is woefully inadequate.
- This proposal does not solve the problem – it just transfers the issue of temporary accommodation from the Welsh medium sector to the English medium sector and brings with it a whole raft of other problems.
SAVE WHITCHURCH SCHOOLS (SWS)
Press Release 29th June 2009
Community asks what is fact and what is fiction?
Concerned parents and Whitchurch residents are becoming increasingly anxious about the misleading publicity circulated by Cardiff Council in relation to the Whitchurch School reorganisation.
It is feared that important decisions are being made based on inaccurate information which will result in a serious shortage of school places in Whitchurch in the near future. The community is calling on the Council to put the record straight on school reorganisation plans.
The table below aims to highlight some of the discrepancies between Council claims and the other sources, and hopes to correct many misconceptions about the reorganisation proposals.
|Claims made by Cardiff Council||True Facts|
|Due to a reducing birth rate, there are 8620 surplus places and this is set to increase to 11,600 (1)||
|There is a need to reduce the number of surplus English-medium places in Whitchurch (5)||
|These proposals respond to the need to meet the rising demand forWelsh-medium education in the Whitchurch area (8)||
|These proposals respond to the need to reduce the number ofsurplus English-medium places in the Whitchurch area and to establishWhitchurch High School at a capacity appropriate for its catchmentpopulation (8)||
|English-medium primary projections indicate that 2FE provision will besufficient to meet catchment area demand for English-medium primaryprovision in this part of Whitchurch (8).Eglwys Newydd and Eglwys Wen Primary Schools currently have 694 pupils between them but the projected demand from within their combined catchment areas is only 343 by the year 2018 (5).||
|The vision is for viable and successful schools (10)||
|Cardiff will be a city with a network of high quality, accessible, parks and green spaces which meet local needs and enhance the City’s‘liveability’ (12)||
|Proposed programme is designed to ensure that every pupil has an appropriate choice of English-medium or Welsh-medium provision (14)||
|The Council’s vision is based on equality, inclusion, efficiency and ‘local schools for local children.’ (13).||
Andrea Waddington, parent and Whitchurch resident said “The figures just don’t stack up and people are genuinely baffled. We’re concerned that this has more to do with land value rather than education. There are schools in Cardiff with high surplus places, many out of catchment children and inadequate facilities but the Council chooses to ignore that – we can only wonder why!”
Notes to editors:
It is understood that the Whitchurch school reorganisation proposals will be discussed at Cardiff Council’s Executive Business Meeting on 2nd July 2009.
(1) Council website, Schools for the Future newsletter: issue 1 (summer 2007)
(2) Office for National Statistics Statistical Bulletin 21 May 2009: Births and Deaths in England and Wales
(3) Population predictions for Local Authorities: StatsWales from WAG
(4) Council Report 27/4/06 and Schools for the Future newsletter: issue 1 (summer 2007)
(5) Quote made in South Wales Echo by Council Spokesperson 10/6/09
(6) As calculated by the Governors of the three affected schools and published in a letter to Cardiff Council in June 2009
(7) As shown in the Council’s Single Education Plan 2006-2008
(8) Schools sub-committee report by Neelam Bhardwaja, 17 March 2009
(9) Catchment Area Information published on www.cardiff.gov.uk under School Information
(10) Strategic framework and various Schools sub committee reports
(11) Figures issued by Cardiff Council in response to a Freedom of Information request
(12) Cardiff Council’s Parks and Green Space Strategy: Action Plan 2007-2012
(13) Schools sub-committee report by Neelam Bhardwaja, 8 June 2009
(14) Letter from Chris Jones 17th June 2009 distributed via schools
SAVE WHITCHURCH SCHOOLS (SWS)
Press Release 28th October 2009
Whitchurch finally notified of schools consultation
Consultation documents detailing Cardiff Council’s proposals for school reorganisation in Whitchurch were finally given to parents on Thursday 22nd October 2009.
Despite the consultation period starting on 9th October, parents had to wait nearly two weeks for the Council to distribute letters and copies of the full consultation document on what was the last day before half term for many children. Consultation meetings at the affected schools start on 2nd November (first day back after half term) giving parents very little time to make childcare/work arrangements.
The first consultation sessions took place in Llandaff North and Whitchurch libraries last week. Even though the Council failed to advertise the drop-in sessions adequately, a number of local residents took time to look at the proposals.
Jan Pycroft, Chair of ‘Save Eglwys Newydd Action Group’ said: “We posted leaflets through many doors in Whitchurch in an attempt to notify the community of the consultation period. It is appalling that the Council has made such little effort to tell residents without children of the proposals. These people will be affected if the school fields are sold for development and many are strongly opposed to the plans and deserve to have their say.”
Many fear that the consultation document itself is misleading, particularly in the way that some statistics are presented. The out of catchment figures quoted for Whitchurch include children with special needs referred to the schools by the Local Authority. In the case of Whitchurch High School (WHS), this includes almost the entire Special Educational Needs Unit therefore distorting the figures. This means that of the 90 pupil places to be lost by WHS, the majority are likely to be from the current catchment area.
In the case of the Primary Schools, children from Whitchurch attending other Whitchurch schools are also counted as ‘out of catchment’ and the figures don’t take account of Whitchurch children attending other schools. For example, the Council proposals would exclude the 13 children attending Eglwys Newydd from Rhiwbina but there are also 13 children attending Rhiwbina Primary who should be in Eglwys Newydd.
Andrea Waddington, parent and Whitchurch resident said “We don’t understand the rationale behind the reorgainsation as it doesn’t make sense to close good schools with very few surplus places. If the Council is insisting on excluding out of catchment children in Whitchurch without applying the same rule all schools, this is discrimination. The Council seems intent on restricting parental choice.”
Notes to editors:
- The consultation period started on the 9th October 2009 with a copy of the consultation document posted on the schools section of the Council website. The consultation is not highlighted on the homepage of the site meaning most people are unlikely to find the information without searching for it.
- The on-line consultation document has since been amended on 20th October but there is no indication of what changes have been made.
- There are ‘out of catchment’ children in English and Welsh medium schools across Cardiff, not just the Whitchurch schools now under threat. According to the Council’s website, Cathays High has 59% ‘out of catchment’ whilst Ysgol Melin Gruffydd has over 28% from outside its Welsh catchment area.
- Children who live physically closer to Eglwys Newydd but who are in Coryton Primary catchment are quoted as ‘out of catchment’ even though they are Whitchurch children attending a Whitchurch school.
- Friday 23rd October and Monday 2nd November are inset days for some schools.