Decision Notification - Proposal to establish a new Welsh–medium primary school at St John’s Terrace
Determination of this proposal complies with statutory requirements under the Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and Welsh Government‘s Code on School Organisation.
This proposal has been the subject of external consultation and no objections were received during the statutory publication period.
Having carefully considered the proposal, advice from Estyn and the supporting evidence from Council officers, the decision was taken on 23rd September 2022 to approve implementation of the proposal effective from the 1st January 2023. The decision will enable the Council to comply with the legislative requirements necessary to facilitate the implementation of the proposal which will assist the Council in meeting its duty to secure efficient education in its area.
In reaching this decision, consideration was given to the following:
Quality and Standards of Education
The Council is responsible for promoting high educational standards and for delivering efficient primary and secondary education. Having the right schools in the right place and ensuring that they are fit for the 21st century learner is the challenge facing the Council.
The proposal will establish a Welsh-medium starter primary school in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey, Neath, SA10 7ND which occupy a prominent position off the A4230 between Neath Abbey and Skewen.
The new school will offer the opportunity for pupils to access Welsh-medium education in their immediate area rather than travelling to Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Castell-nedd or Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tyle’r Ynn. It is anticipated that this will prove to be attractive to many parents in the area and that interest in the Welsh language will therefore grow. It will also facilitate progress towards the Welsh in Education Plan targets of increasing the number of Year 1 children taught through the medium of Welsh to 31% (460 pupils) by 2032
Estyn has also provided advice and comment.
Need for places and the impact on accessibility of schools
The new school will provide for up to 210 full-time primary age pupils and 45 part-time nursery age pupils by September 2029. This will deliver sufficient accommodation for the total combined forecasted pupil numbers, including potential growth in pupil population.
It will open for part time nursery pupils in January 2023 with the first cohort of full time reception pupils expected to attend the new school from September 2023.
The new Welsh–medium school will serve the combined catchment areas of Crymlyn, Coedffranc and Abbey primary schools, making it easier for parents to easily understand their Welsh-medium and English-medium choices, and is a change to the current situation where pupils in this area attend either Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Castell-nedd or Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tyle’r Ynn for Welsh-medium education.
It is anticipated that the majority of pupils attending will live within a two mile radius of the proposed new school, ensuring that Welsh medium education is available within their local area.
Resourcing of Education and other financial implications
Additional recurring revenue costs will be incurred. These can be met from existing resources within the current financial year. Recurring revenue costs for future financial years will need to be factored into the work associated with the development of the medium term financial plan as there is currently no provision for opening of additional schools within the delegated schools budget quantum. As such the revenue costs for the new starter school represents a pressure on Council resources and additional funding will need to be secured to operate the school successfully.
Revenue funding for schools is distributed on an annual basis by means of an approved formula. This ensures school budget shares are allocated on a simple, objective and measurable basis.
Most of the revenue budget allocation to schools is generated by pupil numbers. Therefore the proposed new school budget will be based mainly on the pupil roll, and as the pupil numbers grow the budget will also increase.
The proposal for the new build school also includes the intention to incorporate a new Welsh-medium childcare setting on the school site, to offer pre–school and wraparound care for children through the medium of Welsh.
The nearest Welsh-medium childcare provision is some distance away in Neath and a new setting in the proposed new school would ensure that families from the area are offered greater choice and flexibility, and will also support parents to opt for a Welsh medium school for their children, as well as helping to develop early Welsh language speaking and listening skills in preschool children.
The proposal should also provide opportunities for community use in the Neath Abbey area, and in addition can be seen as an opportunity to further support, enhance and expand the local community’s Welsh language provision.
Welsh Language Impact Assessment
A Welsh Language Impact Assessment (WLIA) has been developed which indicates many positive impacts on the Welsh language. The proposal will support the council’s progress towards the Welsh in Education Plan targets of increasing the number of Year 1 children taught through the medium of Welsh to 31% (460 pupils) by 2032 and will also provide the opportunity to increase the numbers of primary aged pupils accessing Welsh-medium provision within their immediate area.
The proposal should allow further growth in Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Castell-nedd and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tyle’r Ynn from their local areas at the same time as creating school places for a growing population in the Neath Abbey, Skewen and Crymlyn areas.
Additionally onsite childcare provision should support parents and encourage those who do not speak Welsh to opt for a Welsh medium school for their children, helping to develop early Welsh language speaking and listening skills in preschool children.