Mid Wales

Powys secondary schools shake-up meetings start

Around 150 parents attended the first in a series of public meetings to discuss a major shake-up of secondary and sixth form education in Powys.

Many of the meetings are being held in the county's 13 high schools and three further education colleges.

They were due to start last month, but when head teachers collectively raised concerns about the expected high turnout they were rearranged.

Under plans by Powys Council, schools could merge and sixth forms could shut.

The meeting in Welshpool heard how the council believes that the re-organisation is necessary due to falling pupil numbers, financial reasons and the need to improve Welsh medium education in the county.

The local authority approved plans to radically transform secondary education last December. All 13 secondary schools will remain open, but some could merge, leaving seven or eight operating across the 13 sites.

There are also proposals to streamline management, which could lead to one head teacher for three schools. Teaching posts could also be lost through retirement or voluntary redundancies, the council has said.

There are also plans to reorganise pre-16 Welsh-medium education across three sites.

Teaching union leaders fear heavy job losses and are strongly opposed to the council's plans.

Proposals for post-16 schooling include stripping schools of their sixth forms and opening sixth form centres. The county's further education college, Coleg Powys, could also be given responsibility for sixth forms.

Falling pupil numbers

Graham Lewis, the chairman of Welshpool High School's governors, who will chair Monday's meeting, said: "The only change which may happen at Welshpool, as far as we are aware, is that we could lose all post-16 provision (sixth form).

"This is one of the options within the Powys County Council consultation document.

"It is too early to judge the parents' view of this possibility but we should have a better idea following tonight's meeting. I can only speak on behalf of the governing body of Welshpool High which is not in favour of this option."

The council has said its options are a response to falling pupil numbers and the condition of buildings.

Councillor David Jones, who is responsible for schools, said: "The authority, schools and the college are facing serious challenges."

But Newtown councillor Russell George, one of three board members to vote against the plans, has said he does not believe there is an economic case to justify the change.

"It is imperative we do nothing that harms the present provision," he said.

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