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Final decision on local schools

Published: 14/04/2016

Flintshire County Councils Cabinet will determine the proposals to close Ysgol Maes Edwin, Flint Mountain and Ysgol Llanfynydd when it meets on 19 April. In accordance with the statutory School Organisation Code, a formal consultation period started on 21 October and ended on 2 December 2015. The reports for both Ysgol Maes Edwin and Ysgol Llanfynydd included a summary of the issues raised by consultees, a response to each of the issues raised, and Estyn’s view in full (as it is provided in its consultation responses) of the overall merits of the proposals. Cabinet previously determined that Statutory Proposals be issued for both schools, these were published 29 January and ran to 26 February 2016. Under the School Organisational Code the proposals for both schools are determined by the Council’s Cabinet, rather than Welsh Ministers. Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Chris Bithell, said: We understand that reviewing the future of any school is controversial and emotive. Pupils, parents, carers and teachers, past and present, have strong ties to local schools as part of their own life-stories. However in these difficult times, we are challenged with balancing the sensitivities of community feeling on the one hand, with providing a high quality primary education offer which can be afforded and sustained. The Council cannot avoid making decisions for the future which are in the best interests of pupils and students. “During the consultation, the avenue of federation was explored, but, unfortunately, neither school was able to identify a willing partnering school or schools with which to pursue a federation. “We will ensure as smooth a transition as possible for all pupils, especially for vulnerable learners such as those with Additional Learning Needs. We will be working alongside pupils, their parents and teachers to make appropriate transition arrangements for pupils to familiarise themselves with their new environments.” The Council has demonstrated that there is sufficient capacity in the local school network to accommodate pupils from Ysgol Llanfynydd should it close. This view is upheld by Estyn in its response. However, additional places if required can be established at Ysgol Parc Y Llan, Treuddyn, at either no cost or minimal cost for that school to be available to all current pupils at Ysgol Llanfynydd. There is also sufficient capacity in the local school network to accommodate pupils from Ysgol Maes Edwin should it close. Estyn commented, “The local authority has given a clear rationale for the proposed expected benefits when compared with the status quo in relation to finance, surplus places and the continuity and progression in pupils’ learning.” Flintshire County Councils Chief Officer for Education, Ian Budd, said: The percentage of surplus places in Flintshire schools continues to remain above the Welsh Government target of 10%. Since funding for schools is largely driven by pupil numbers, surplus capacity means a disproportionate amount of funding is spent on infrastructure (such as buildings) and the “fixed costs” of running a school (such as leadership and administration). “We need to ensure that education revenue funding is used to ensure that pupil teacher ratios are kept at an appropriate level to make a direct difference to learners. As public service funding reduces and school cost pressures continue to rise, such as through changes to national insurance and teacher pensions, the need for reprioritisation and change becomes even more pressing. We fully recognise that school communities and the local authority need to work together to support learners through a challenging period of change.” Estyn’s formal response to the consultation confirms the independent inspectorate’s view that this proposal is likely to at least maintain the present standards of education provision in the area.