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Uncertainty over school closures

county hallPembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet took the decision on Monday (January 13th) to undertake a review of secondary education provision in Haverfordwest.

A report will be re-submitted to Cabinet in Spring 2014 that will outline options and recommendations that could ultimately decide the future of the two Haverfordwest secondary schools. This comes after a report was commissioned in June of last year. The report’s findings may make for alarming reading for parents, teachers and governors alike.

According to the “School Organisation Matrix – Secondary Schools” report, both schools scored low in the following criteria: quality and future sustainability of education provision; sufficiency and accessibility of school places; the condition, suitability and standard of school buildings and value for money.

These findings were the catalyst to Cabinet discussing the need for approval for a further detailed review of secondary education, and the future of the two schools. Options that are being considered, which include maintaining the status quo, also, alarmingly, cite the possibilities of either a merger or even closure. In addition, being considered are changes to designation that might include age, language or faith.

The Council published the following proposition, “A review of provision should be undertaken prior to moving to preliminary consultation, to ensure that consultation proposals:

• Are prepared at a formative stage, with all relevant options included.

• Include sufficient reasons and information for the proposal to enable intelligent consideration and response.

• Give a detailed description of the status quo setting out its strengths and weaknesses and the rationale for change.

• Provide a timeline for each option in the proposal in respect of informal and statutory consultation and implementation.

• Benefits and advantages analysis of the proposals.

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• Information on learner travel arrangements.

• Community impact assessment and equalities impact assessment.”

The Council states that the objectives for any review are designed to, ‘drive up standards of teaching and attainment in all schools, to improve educational outcomes for children and young people in all phases, to ensure value for money, to ensure buildings are fit for the future delivery of high standards of education and to help narrow the inequalities in achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged areas, groups and individuals’.

Anxious parents and teachers will hope the Council looks favourably on the standards in both schools as well as seeing value for money. Either way, the community impact could be devastating if any changes are made to the continued provision of education by both schools.

The future of Thomas Picton and Taskers coincides with another review taking place that is assessing the fate of another Pembrokeshire School, Templeton CP.

This has come about, again, from the School Organisation Matrix. In a report the conclusions, amongst other things, stated that standards of education in the school have declined since the school’s Estyn inspection in 2009. It also said that the level of spaces in the Templeton and Stepaside areas are a cause for concern in relation to meeting Welsh Government targets and, ultimately, that the catchment areas of the schools should be revised as a means of re-balancing the sufficiency of pupil places in the area.

As a result, the following options are being considered in relation to the school’s fate: extending the age range of the school to accept part time three year olds, establish federation with either Narberth CP school or Tavernspite CP school, the closure of the school or, a change of status of either Templeton CP or Narberth CP Schools to a Welsh Medium school.

Parents will wait anxiously to find out what happens as a result of Cabinet approval, that the Director for Children and Schools undertake a review of educational provision at the school.