Cardiff shake-up to expand Welsh education rejected

Cardiff council criticised First Minister Carwyn Jones's decision

Plans to reorganise schools to expand Welsh-medium education in west Cardiff have been rejected by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

It blocks a proposal to remove surplus English-medium places in Canton to meet extra demand for Welsh-medium schools.

Plaid Cymru called it an "outrage" and the council said it would send "shockwaves".

One of the reasons for refusal given by the assembly government was that it would not improve education provision.

Start Quote

It makes you wonder whether WAG [the Welsh Assembly Government] may have desperately been looking for a reason to turn this proposal down ”

End Quote Rodney Berman, Leader, Cardiff council

The council said it was "dismayed at receiving a decision from the Welsh Assembly Government that it has rejected the proposal to close Lansdowne Primary School and relocate Ysgol Treganna onto the Lansdowne site as a two-form entry primary school with nursery".

The council said it would have meant Radnor Primary School "becoming established as a two-form entry English-medium primary school with nursery on the site it currently shares with Ysgol Treganna".

In April last year, the council's executive backed a plan to close Lansdowne Primary to make way for the expansion of Welsh-medium school Ysgol Treganna, which is short of space.

'Kick in the teeth'

Parents mounted a strong campaign to save the school, claiming the closure would simply move the problem elsewhere, leaving English-medium schools in Canton without enough room.

Mr Berman described the decision as a "kick in the teeth" for the those in the Welsh-language community who had "been working incredibly hard for years to secure an acceptable solution for their current overcrowding problem in Canton".

He questioned why the council's reorganisation proposals, which were sent to the assembly government in August last year, had been rejected now.

ASSEMBLY GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO PROPOSALS

  • Plans rejected because "they are not likely to improve the standard of education provision in the area"
  • Proposals also "do not ensure the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum because of the physical constraints"
  • First Minister Carwyn Jones "recognises that there are strong arguments for the reorganisation of primary schools in the Canton area"
  • Mr Jones hopes the council will reconsider "how it can ensure a better match between the demand and supply of school places" in the area
  • Mr Jones is "keenly aware of the strength of feeling of parents of Welsh medium-pupils" who want a solution in their own neighbourhood
  • But he "feels sure" that "those parents would not want to see the education of a much larger group of pupils potentially compromised as a result of their needs being met"
  • Mr Jones accepts the proposal has been with the assembly government for longer than desired but points to the "complexity" of the plans and the large number of objections received
  • He "looks to the local authority to tackle the current deficiencies in provision for Welsh-medium primary education in the Canton area as a matter of extreme urgency"
  • Source: Welsh Assembly Government

He said: "Given that during this period the assembly has kept coming back to us with questions it makes you wonder whether WAG [the Welsh Assembly Government] may have desperately been looking for a reason to turn this proposal down and have kept asking question after question until they found something they felt they could hang a refusal on.

"I am now calling for an urgent review of the way schools reorganisation in Wales is handled and am raising my concerns through the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA).

Richard Edwards, the Lansdowne head teacher, welcomed the decision and said he appreciated his "recognition of the concerns we have raised over the last three years".

He added: "We are pleased for the children of Landsdowne primary that they will be able to remain together as a school family and not be dispersed.

"We hope that a new proposal can now be secured that is in the interests of all Canton children for the future."

Plaid Cymru education spokesperson Nerys Evans called the decision "an absolute outrage".

Ms Evans said the ruling "effectively denies parents in Cardiff the right to choose to educate their children through the medium of Welsh, which goes against one of the flagship policies of the assembly government's Welsh medium education".

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We recognise that the turmoil around school reorganisation in Canton has caused parents, pupils, staff and the community of Canton great anxiety ”

End Quote Cerys Furlong, Richard Cook, Ramesh Patel Canton Labour councillors

"Time after time Labour has rejected all proposals to address the crisis facing Welsh-medium education in Cardiff West. The local AM and former First Minister, Rhodri Morgan, and MP Kevin Brennan have in fact led the campaign to block adequate provision of Welsh medium education."

Mr Morgan said: "My immediate reaction is that I'm very pleased that he's accepted the essence of the objectors' arguments, namely that the damage to English medium education in the city council's proposal is greater than the benefit to Welsh-medium education."

But he admitted the situation at Treganna was "dire" and said the council now needed to "urgently address the issue of the demand for Welsh medium education".

Three Labour Canton councillors said they accepted the decision, but "remain extremely concerned about the worsening situation at Ysgol Treganna, and call on the council to bring forward plans as a matter of urgency to address the overcrowding".

In a joint statement, councillors Cerys Furlong, Richard Cook and Ramesh Patel said: "We recognise that the turmoil around school reorganisation in Canton has caused parents, pupils, staff and the community of Canton great anxiety over the past few years".

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