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Education chief says benefits of £43m Swansea special school ‘immense’

Ysgol Crug Glas, Croft Street, Swansea, which could become part of a new £43m special school (Pic: Google Maps)

THE BENEFITS for young people of a new special school which was proposed years ago in Swansea would be “immense”, the council’s education director said.

Helen Morgan-Rees said a new special school was top of the council’s list of new-build priorities as part of an investment programme which ran from 2019-20 to 2023-24, but that it slipped down the pecking order because schools in the poorest condition in Swansea had to be tackled first.

“It’s got to a point where it needs to be built,” said Ms Morgan-Rees at a council scrutiny meeting.

The council announced plans last autumn to merge Swansea’s two special schools – Ysgol Crug Glas, on Croft Street in the city centre, and Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, Morriston – in 2025 ahead of building a new £43 million special school off Mynydd Garnllwyd Road, close to where Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn is. The preferred site was whittled down from a shortlist of 23 locations, but it’s not known yet where exactly off Mynydd Garnllwyd Road the new school would be built.

The entrance to Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, Morriston, Swansea, which could become part of a new £43m special school (Pic: Google Maps)

The aim is for the new school to have 350 places, around 100 more than are provided currently by Ysgol Crug Glas and Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn, and open in September 2028. It would cater for three to 18-year-olds.

Ms Morgan-Rees said the hydrotherapy pool and changing facilities at Ysgol Crug Glas weren’t in the best condition and that adaptations were needed to some of Ysgol Pen-y-Bryn’s buildings.

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She said: “The learner benefits around this proposal are immense, really.”

She added that responses to a consultation about the new-build plans were largely positive, including from pupils at the two special schools and the two governing bodies. There was a concern from a parent-carer about the mix of pupils at the new school as Ysgol Crug Glas caters for young people with multiple profound learning difficulties whereas Pen-y-Bryn is for those with moderate to severe learning difficulties. A further consultation period is currently under way, closing on March 5.

Cllr Sandra Joy asked if the new school would increase home-to-school transport costs for the council, and whether it would cater for learners from Swansea who were currently educated out of the county.

Ms Morgan-Rees said transport cost increases were “potentially going to be an issue” but that the authority was keen to acquire more minibuses to mitigate this.

She added that the council didn’t wish to disrupt learning for young people currently educated outside of Swansea but that the new school should be able to avoid the need for such placements in the future.

Cllr Angela O’Connor asked if amalgamating two schools could lead to job losses. Ms Morgan-Rees said she couldn’t guarantee that no school leadership jobs would be lost, but there could be more staff roles because of the 100 extra places.

The new special school would need cabinet approval to proceed, plus planning permission from the council and business case approval from the Welsh Government, which would provide 75% of the construction costs with the council contributing 25%.

The panel also heard that Swansea has 38 specialist teaching facilities at its mainstream schools which catered for pupils with special or additional needs, and that there was evidence that demand for such provision was increasing.

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