Wales

Rhondda Cynon Taf sixth form closure plan on hold

Pupils in Merthyr opposed sixth form closures
Image caption Replacing sixth forms attracted opposition in Merthyr Tydfil

Plans to close sixth forms in Rhondda Cynon Taf as part of a revamp of post-16 education have been put on hold.

Council proposals to establish three bilingual tertiary colleges were opposed by some parents, who wanted to keep sixth forms.

Welsh language education campaigners also questioned the effect on Welsh-medium education.

The council said it could not press ahead with its proposals because of uncertainty about funding.

A report presented to the council cabinet said the plan to create bilingual tertiary colleges "contradicted" the assembly government's Welsh-medium education strategy.

It also did not appear to "meet the minister's statement on Welsh-medium education of 21 January 2010".

Councillor Eudine Hanagan, the cabinet member for education, skills and lifelong learning, said: "The objectives and rationale our proposals set out to meet still remain.

"We await the outcome of the assembly budget in coming weeks, to see if there is sufficient funding available to support our commitment to improve education post-16 within Rhondda Cynon Taf.

"We have to be pragmatic, and funding to Wales has been substantially slashed by the new Westminster government, which means we cannot take forward our proposals until we are aware of the impact these cuts may have on the assembly's budget."

A new plan to be presented to the assembly government next month includes reorganising secondary schools in the county but keeping sixth-forms.

However, officers have recommended that if education standards do not improve by 2015, they should look again at setting up tertiary colleges.

The plan is due to be presented to the assembly government by 8 December.

Mr Hanagan added: "Whilst others have chosen to distort the facts, we have always maintained that our proposals were based on obtaining the necessary funding from the assembly and they were only one of a range of options, which we would consult with the public on, once we were aware of available investment.

'Paramount objective'

"They have never been a fait accompli.

"Cabinet discussed and agreed today that we will need to await the outcome of the assembly budget before progressing our proposals and options to the next stage.

"This has always been about improving the quality of education for young people in Rhondda Cynon Taf and this remains our paramount objective."

Earlier this month, Wrexham council voted to maintain school-based sixth-forms, despite a recommendation to close them.

Blaenau Gwent council has put forward plans for a new learning campus at Ebbw Vale, bringing all post-16 education together on one site.

In Merthyr Tydfil, plans to replace sixth forms with an expanded tertiary college have been approved by the local authority despite opposition.

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