Due to the lack of plans and short consultation, we are still trying to fully understand the consequences of Option 4. The following issues have been identified so far:
- Temporary accommodation – there will still be a need for temporary accommodation whilst refurbishment work is completed. The council has yet to clarify how much and for how long.
- Projected pupil numbers – A 2.5 form entry English medium school is insufficient to accommodate local children. The projected numbers still do not work.
- Lack of educational benefit – this latest proposal does not consider or protect the high standards of education delivered by the schools. There are still no educational benefits mentioned for English medium pupils and there would be a negative impact on education due to the long term disruption, temporary accommodation, loss of teachers and fall in staff morale.
- Traffic and congestion – 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’.
- The aim of school reorganisation is supposed to be to reduce surplus places. Whitchurch has very few surplus places (within WAG guidelines) and therefore the council should be concentrating their efforts on areas that do have surplus places.
- 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 reliable evidence from any survey to establish actual/future need as projections are solely based on trend data.
- 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.
- Option 4 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.
Proposals 1, 2 and 3
The council has admitted that they expect temporary arrangements to be in place for six years in the proposed new English medium primary school. This is because there will be too many pupils and they estimate that it will take until 2018 for the numbers to decline sufficiently. This means 7 or 8 portacabins possibly situated on Whitchurch High Lower School field, and/or split sites with some children taught in the proposed new school and some in the deserted Eglwys Wen or Eglwys Newydd.
This is both impractical and unacceptable. It is inevitable that these temporary arrangements will have a detrimental affect on all – children, staff and parents alike. There will be overcrowding, years of disruption and loss of experienced staff negatively impacting on education. Children could be split from their peers and their siblings causing unnecessary stress.
The council proposes to sell land at all FOUR school sites in Whitchurch. This could be as much as 8.15 acres of land, equivalent to 3.5 millennium stadium rugby pitches. The council predict that developers could build 165 new residential units. This means more congestion, more pollution, more pressure on local services and more children needing school places!
According to the latest Supplementary Planning Guidance, Whitchurch already has a deficit of open space. Recreational open space is examined against a minimum standard of 2.43 hectares (6 acres) per 1,000 population but Whitchurch does not currently meet this standard. It is therefore deplorable that the Council wishes to dispose of educational land depriving the community of sporting venues and green space.
The plans are based on population projections that are at least three years out of date, and forecast falling school numbers. In fact, latest WAG figures, which the council have forecast, show a rise in school population numbers.
The council out of catchment figures, include children who are attending their local, closest school, but is not their catchment school.
The council slides consider pupils who attend Whitchurch High School from outside the catchment area, but not pupils who should attend Whitchurch but attend other schools. 137 pupils live within the Whitchurch catchment area, but attend other English Medium High Schools. (This figure does not include pupils who are attending Welsh Medium or faith based schools).
If these proposals go through, there will not be enough places at these schools for local children – they will have to travel to other schools within the city.