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No funding available for Pontypool Catholic school that is ‘falling apart’, council says

St Alban's Roman Catholic High School is in a grade II-listed building in Pontypool Park (Pic: LDRS)

TEACHERS at a Gwent secondary that is “falling apart” are having to buy supplies with their own cash while mushrooms sprout from its wet walls.  

Such is the poor condition at St Albans Roman Catholic High School in Pontypool the school budget is so squeezed there is little to spare for anything other than patch repairs to the grade II-listed building.  

However there is no agreement in place between Torfaen Borough Council and the Archdiocese of Cardiff, which is responsible for the school, on funding for a rebuild or refurbishment.  

Parents, and some staff including a teacher who reported buying supplies from their own pocket, submitted 40 letters to the council’s scrutiny committee ahead of its review of possible investments in new school buildings pleading for financial support.  

The council has said it is in an “ongoing dialogue” with the Archdiocese but insists it hasn’t got the cash to make a contribution towards the 15 per cent of the costs of new buildings that would be required, with 85 per cent of total capital costs potentially available from the Welsh Government.  

Torfaen council has identified around £140 million will be required over the coming nine years in funding towards the delayed refurbishment of two Welsh medium primaries, Ysgol Bryn Onnen and Ysgol Gymraeg Cwmbran, and further growth in the sector, new buildings or refurbishments at seven other schools and responding to increasing demand for pupil referral places for those excluded or unable to attend mainstream education.  

But in relation to Catholic schools it has only identified working with the Archdiocese as a priority.  

Councillor Richard Clark, the cabinet member for education, said he and council leader, Anthony Hunt, have attended meetings with the school and Archdiocese and told the scrutiny committee “they haven’t been the easiest of meetings”.  

The Croesyceiliog Labour councillor said: “The responsibility for capital is for the Archdiocese. In other authorities, where the Archdiocese have had issues getting the 15 per cent, they’ve been able to help out, we are not in that position.  

“If you can find me a money tree I don’t know about, please tell me. We just are not in a position in terms of education.”  

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Referring to plans that weren’t taken forward to turn St Albans into a school for pupils aged three-to-16 Cllr Clark said: “There was a potential solution a number of years ago, that sadly wasn’t taken up for whatever reason, and you need to ask the Archdiocese of that.”  

Cllr Clark said building projects are now having to deal with inflation of around 50 per cent and said: “The Archdiocese would have found themselves in a better position had that gone ahead.”  

Letters sent to Torfaen’s education committee highlighted poor conditions children and staff have to work in and perceived unfairness that other schools have new buildings and refurbishments and additional facilities such as 3G sports pitches.  

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 limits its grant to voluntary aided (faith schools) to 85 per cent.  

She said: “The 15 per cent balance is usually payable by the school’s governing body or diocese, although sometimes the contribution is met by the local authority.  

“Local authorities are responsible for deciding which buildings to invest in and must do this in collaboration with diocesan authorities.”  
The scrutiny committee has requested feedback on the talks with the Archdiocese and has said it believes St Albans should be a priority for the council.

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