South East Wales

Caerphilly secondary school merger plan moves a step closer

Two secondary schools in Caerphilly county are a step closer to merging under council plans to rationalise education in the area.

Caerphilly council's cabinet agreed on Tuesday to publish statutory notices to close Oakdale and Pontllanfraith comprehensive schools and build a new 900-pupil school.

Concerns were raised about disruptions to education and school transport.

But the council said the reaction had been "overwhelmingly positive".

Parents, staff and pupils have 28 days to comment on the £18.5m plans before a final decision is made.

If approved, a school would be built at Oakdale Business Park and include 50 places for students with special needs.

The plans came after school inspectors Estyn warned the council it must cut the number of surplus school places, which are expected to rise to 25.8% in the next two years.

The new school, expected to open in September 2016, would help reduce this number, Estyn said.

School catchment areas could change under the plans to ensure there are two broadly similar-sized schools in the region - the proposed new Oakdale school and Blackwood Comprehensive.

'Top class facilities'

This would make Libanus and Markham primary schools feed into Blackwood Comprehensive instead of Pontllanfraith Comprehensive.

Post-16 education for the new school and Blackwood Comprehensive would continue at Coleg Gwent's Cross Keys Campus.

Some parents said they were concerned siblings may end up at different schools, and some pupils might no longer be entitled to school transport if catchment areas changed.

They were also worried GCSE pupils could be disrupted by the move.

The council said although some concerns had been raised, in the main there had been overwhelming positivity about the new school plans.

Councillor Rhianon Passmore, cabinet member for education, added: "We are committed to ensuring our pupils have top class educational facilities in modern, fit for purpose buildings, and I believe these proposals provide an exciting opportunity for pupils now and into the future."

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