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Continuing controversy over College scheme

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Artist’s impression: The new sixth form centre

PROPOSALS for a new £6.6m A-Level Centre were unveiled at Pembrokeshire College, Haverfordwest, on Monday (Jan 18).

A press release from the College describes the plan as a ‘cutting edge centre which will allow the college’s A-Level students and students from Ysgol Bro Gwaun and Ysgol Dewi Sant to attend the college for sixth form education from September 2017, subject to ministerial approval’.

The plans for the centre promise “exceptional sixth form facilities” including new science laboratories, vibrant classrooms, flexible delivery space, high quality sports facilities and state-of-the-art learning technology.

Pembrokeshire College’s principle, Sharron Lusher said: “By investing in an A-level Centre, we are investing in the futures of the young people of Pembrokeshire and showing our commitment to providing the best educational opportunities possible, both now and in the future,”


The development is planned to be a two-storey new building on the campus, which will be linked to the existing college. The vocational areas are also being remodelled, and with the location of the centre A-level learners will be able to have access to vocational qualifications.

Last year the college reported the A-level enrolments increasing to 150, over double the previous year, with the proposed merger with Fishguard and St Davids sixth forms an additional 100 students are expected for 2017 with the figure increasing the following year to 170.

This will see Pembrokeshire College become the largest provider of A-level qualifications in the county. It will be run by an A-level committee, which will consist of school, college and local authority representation.

“This is an extremely exciting time for both Pembrokeshire and Pembrokeshire College,” said Mrs Lusher.

“The A-level Centre will provide a dynamic environment that will allow us to prepare our young people for the workplace or higher education. With almost 200 learners progressing to university last year, the centre will become a valuable resource in helping even more learners to progress to some of the UK’s top universities.”

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The College anticipates the £6.6m will be funded partly through Welsh Government 21st Century School funding and partly by itself. In practice this potentially means that the local authority will be stumping up half the development costs, as the College does not have the money to complete the project unaided.

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Considering alternatives: School governor Paul Lucas

The Herald has been told by a member of College staff that the College’s intention to begin works in June 2016, and that internal works will begin at that time.

The plans include a sports centre and new science labs.

There will be a new reception area, increasing the Hair & Beauty department and drama facilities.

Our source told us that existing members of staff expect classrooms to be ‘tarted up’. Quite how the College intends to address what are understood to be significant concerns by potential students about the level of tutor support has not been specified.

In addition, owing to the lack of expert teachers at the College to teach the full-range of A Level subjects, there are also concerns at the concentration on too narrow a curriculum, unless the College and Council are somehow able to co-ordinate all teaching provision across every Pembrokeshire secondary school and compel teachers to teach A Level classes at the College.

At no stage has the authority specified how it intends to resolve timetabling, staffing, and pay issues, despite now being more than five years into the 21st Century Schools programme.


The Herald has been told by a separate source at Pembrokeshire College that the organisation’s underlying strategy is to create a centre to entice pupils away from schools whose governing bodies, parents, and stakeholders resist the blandishments of the College and the pressure from the Council. Meanwhile The Herald has established that a combined sixth form of Tasker-Milward and Sir Thomas Picton schools would more than meet the minimum requirement for student numbers for a viable sixth form.

Were the College to make its own application for 21st Century Funding, it would be compelled to carry its own consultations with affected parties instead of having the local authority fight those battles on its behalf.

Planning consent has not yet been sought for the development, which also has to be approved by the Welsh Government before works can begin and public money allocated it. The Herald understands there is a significant risk that the grand scheme will not be approved by the Welsh Government as long as the issue of Haverfordwest Schools’ futures remains undetermined.

Such a prospect places added pressure on Pembrokeshire County Council to force through its own wishes for the reorganisation of sixth form education regardless of opposition or potential legal challenge.

The Herald has been told that legal action is more probable than not, as the Council seems prepared to ‘play chicken’ to get its own way. Council Chief Ian Westley is particularly keen to avoid a potentially prolonged legal dispute regarding post-16 education in the town, particularly given the potential for embarrassment to the authority thanks to its blundering, duplicitous, and heavy-handed approach to the consultation process – a hangover from a previous executive regime.


Paul Lucas, Chair of the Joint Governing Body of Tasker-Milward and Sir Thomas Picton Schools said: “In Haverfordwest the Tasker Milward Governors are still looking for a single new 11 to 19 secondary school with equally good facilities to embrace a wide academic curriculum including a full range of sporting and community amenities.

The vast majority of parents and pupils have already made their views clear to the governors in that a sixth form within a school is an inherent and influential part of that school. If the sixth form is removed from the school this will, in our view, cause irreparable damage to what is left of that school, and this aspect is particularly important in our Pembrokeshire community.

“The school staff have supported this view in the past and from the information provided to me to date I have no reason to believe that this has changed in any way.”