Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why won’t you listen to us?

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Dear Mr Harris, Chief Education Officer, and Councillor Bob Poole, Cabinet Member for Education and Young People

I know that you know that we on the Gaer are opposed to the plan you have for the future of education on the Gaer.

I want to state for the record that we are NOT anti-Council or anti-Education Department.  We know you have difficult jobs with choices to make that sometimes (well, often, let’s be fair) some people don’t like. 

We held a rally last night and I understand some at the Council took offense at that word.  It was not intended to offend: a rally (noun) is “a drawing or coming together of persons, as for common action, as in a mass meeting” (www.dictionary.com).  How is this offensive?  I also understand that in the flyer that has gone out, the reference to the Council “failing” Gaer children was similarly offensive.  Again, it is not intended to offend but it exactly how we on the Gaer see what is happening and we have every right to put across our points.

We do feel extremely aggrieved on the Gaer, regarding your proposal to amalgamate the two schools on the Junior site, because we feel totally ignored.  Many, many people responded during the consultation phase to the proposal, 100% of which were strongly against the proposal, and yet in the report released in March, every single objection was swept aside, dismissed as seemingly unimportant. 

My main points of objection, and the main point of the governors’ letters and many other people – that of the ‘surplus’ issue that you repeat regularly, will (by your own figures in the proposal document but not repeated in subsequent reports) be reduced to less than 10% in 5 years, and that’s without having to take any action at all – were not even mentioned. 

You must know that we have given you a plausible, better alternative. We believe the best solution is to keep the 2 schools as they are, amalgamate us on a split-site basis (the same as every other school in Newport in recent years), and use your £3.8m to make the annexe at the Gaer Infants’ site into another ASD unit in Newport.  This can house the primary-aged children from Newport with ASD that currently have to leave the city every day for their schooling, thus reducing your annual transportation budget significantly. 

Why do you need to move the Brynglas ASD unit from their current site?  Why is it not possible to integrate them with the Welsh Medium pupils of Bro Teyrnon (assuming that the proposal to relocate Bro Teyrnon to that school is passed)?  How are Welsh Medium primary pupils different from Gaer schools pupils?

We know you want a specialist ASD school, in line with other areas in Wales, that can cater for children from 3-16 or even 19.  We know that our proposal means that you would not be able to create that school at this time; but in fairness, you don’t have the money to create such a school which is the reason why you are trying to push through this proposal.

£3.8m is, I would imagine, more than enough to transform the annexe into a fully kitted out ASD unit, with the chance for those children to benefit equally from all the amazing on site facilities we have at the Gaer, shared with Gaer children.  It may even – who knows? – be enough to make the annexe fit-for-purpose for 3-11 year olds, whilst leaving money to create another ASD unit attached to a secondary school, for the 11-16/19 year olds.  After all, if the proposal does go ahead, that age group of children would not be able to integrate with the Gaer school on the Junior site due to age differences.  You would have to provide opportunities for integration for them in one or more of Newport’s secondary schools, which would involve transportation and other costs.

Can you not wait, see if within a few years you would have the funds available to create a whole school that you desire, without destroying the educational prospects of thousands of Gaer children over the coming years?

Please, sirs, reconsider your position.  Can you not accept that there is an alternative – fully supported within the Gaer community – that will tick two of the three boxes that (I imagine) you need ticking right now: an amalgamated Gaer school and more ASD provision with integration opportunities for primary-aged pupils in Newport.  I am sure if you put your minds to it, you can find a solution for the 11-19 year olds which would tick that box too, but without removing everything that the Gaer schools have developed over decades.

I hope you see this, and read it.  Please understand our deeply rooted concerns, and take action to withdraw this statutory notice.  Start again with a proposal we can champion with you. 

Yours sincerely

Debbie Haile

on behalf of the Save the Gaer Schools Campaign.

 

Wow, what a great evening!

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Thank you so much to all who were able to come last night, and to those who wanted to come but couldn’t.  I was so proud of our community for standing up for our children’s education and the future of the Gaer.

I have had a response from Cllr Whitcutt (he emailed at 5.30pm when I had already left the house) to explain why the Ward Councillors would not be attending. 

“In the circumstances, please accept our apologies for not attending, as whilst we will of course, as ward members have full regard to the views of our constituents which is why we attended the meeting organised in January, we do not consider that it would be appropriate to attend what you describe in your leaflets as a “Rally” directed against the Council.”

I shall be responding to Cllrs Whitcutt, Wilcox and Thomas soon.  But I thought it only fair, as I did state last night that 2 of the 3 of them had not responded prior to the meeting, to correct that now as it turns out they did (albeit when I was already out of the house at the Governors’ meeting.)

More soon….

Debbie

Key points…

Here is a simple (I hope!) list of the key points you might want to consider including when (I hope it is a ‘when’!) you write to the Council. Please don’t copy my wording exactly and don’t feel you need to include everything, write what YOU feel strongly about – the more the letter is from you, the better).

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General:

  1. Unjustifiable proposal – the ‘surplus’ issue will right itself in just 5 years to under 10% across the two schools, with no intervention needed, and the Monbank Housing Development MAY push us in the right direction even more quickly; the benefits of a through-primary can easily – and with no financial outlay – be gained through amalgamating the schools on a split-site (and this option has the full support of the schools, governing bodies, parents and community)
  2. Absolutely NO SUPPORT – school, governing body, parental or community – for this proposal.  Everyone is completely against moving the Infants into the Junior School
  3. If school space is needed for pupils with ASD in Newport, the Infant school has an annex that can easily be redeveloped for ASD use, thus allowing full integration with an amalgamated, split-site Gaer Primary, and shared use of the Gaer schools’ wonderful facilities.

Infants:

  1. Local children may well not be able to come to the nursery as rising threes as they slash nursery places.  You may have to find a private provider to cover their government-funded 2.5 hours per day of nursery provision.  What a 3 year old receives in the Gaer nursery goes way beyond basic childcare – they are fully immersed in a fun, educational environment with qualified teachers guiding them through.  These youngest children’s educational prospects will suffer.
  2. The children will lose their amazing, second-to-none outdoor facilities, many paid for by the Gaer community: the timber trail (they love this, playing on it as often as they are allowed), the amphitheatre, the large playground with bridge and ‘pond’, the beautiful nursery garden, the adventurous reception garden, the creative year 1 and 2 garden.  Their education will suffer.
  3. Inside they will lose: the ‘happy’ room (used to support children struggling emotionally, and for group work), the ‘ocean’ room (multi-sensory, for children with additional learning needs, such as ASD), the ‘technical’ room (for group working and for professionals to meet with staff and children), the art room, the excellent library, their hall, and the staff room.  Their education will suffer.
  4. They will be crammed down into a much smaller space, with no specialist outdoor provision (‘statutory requirements’ merely specify outdoor space must be available, not that it has to reach the quality we have achieved at the Gaer).  Their education will suffer.
  5. They will have no library, and no group working spaces as they do now.  Their education will suffer.
  6. There will have just one dining room to share with the older children – double the children, 1 lunch hour.  They will have to eat quickly. Their educational experience will suffer.
  7. At the moment, they do shows and concerts every term – even the nursery children – in the hall for parents and relatives to come and enjoy.  This gives them confidence and fun at the same time!  With just 1 hall available for all the children, rehearsal and performance times will be extremely difficult, and may mean they cannot continue to do performances every term.  Their confidence and abilities will not be supported as they are now.

Juniors:

  1. The Juniors will lose a huge portion of their outdoor space to a large car park and to the ‘wing’ to be built for some of the infant children, as well as the designated outdoor spaces for every infant class (this is statutory).  Their education will suffer.
  2. Inside, they will lose: the library, the ICT room, the film club/break out room, the staff preparation room.  Their education will be severely affected by these loses.
  3. There will be no group working spaces – there will only be classes and corridors.  Their education will suffer.

Local Residents:

  1. On the first day of the amalgamated school (if they succeed in pushing this through), the number of children arriving at 9am will almost double from the current number of pupils.  There will be CHAOS at drop off and pick up times, as nearly double the number of parents arrive at the school.  If you think Gaer Road/Lansdown Road is bad now, wait until the proposal goes through!
  2. Where will the parents park?  In the Gaer Inn, at the Gaer shops?  Outside your house?  Your quality of life may well suffer.
  3. If you have nursery-aged children, you may find that you cannot get them into the Gaer nursery and have to find a place elsewhere, even in a private provider.  This may impact your ability to organise your family/working life (there is no guarantee that you will find a place on the Gaer). Your child’s education and your working life may suffer.

If I have missed any off…please let me know in the comments below!

Get scribbling, friends.

Debbie

Help Needed….

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We urgently need legal advice.

Are you a solicitor or lawyer? Do you know one who might be able to help the campaign?

We need someone who can give us a few hours, to help us to understand our legal position and create a ‘plan of action’ for the next few weeks of the consultation.

Thing is, we can’t use the school budgets to pay for legal advice (can’t take money allocated to education, as I’m sure you’ll agree!).

So, can anyone help us pro bono?

Pretty please?!

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(that’s the cherry on top!)

ps Thanks to James whose comment on a previous blog post highlighted that we don’t seem to have enough of a strategy and haven’t looked at the legal side – fantastic advice, mate!  Thanks so much!

Confusion at the Council…

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After the incredible length of time it took the education department to:

a) come up with their proposal (they said it would be September, in the end it was November 2012)

b) respond to consultees’ submissions during the formal consultation phase (ultimately we only got ‘thanks for your letters’ responses after I wrote to complain that we had heard nothing at all for nearly 7 weeks since the close of the consultation!)

c) move to statutory consultation (the period between consultation periods was over 2 1/2 months)

…now we find out that due to lack of ‘clarity’ over the way they worded the Statutory Notice published in the Argus and around the community, they are re-publishing the notice on 22nd April, and the consultation will last for a month and a day.

Here’s the letter some have received (but not the schools or the governing bodies as yet, I got this from a friend who had already submitted his opposition last week):

To all consultees on the school reorganisation proposal for the Gaer Schools

Dear Consultee

Re: Republished Statutory Notice

I am obliged to republish the statutory notice in the South Wales Argus on the 22nd April, and to launch a new ‘one month and one day (allowing for the May Day bank holiday) statutory notice period’ from that date.

I have worked with Welsh Government to bring some clarity to the wording of the notice for parents. In the event that a decision is taken to amalgamate the schools, there will be no move to transport pupils away from this site during any redevelopment work. Education delivery would continue within the current site during that time.

Any and all objections received in respect of the first statutory notice published on the 10th April up to midnight on the 21st April will be accepted by this authority and designated as objections within the second statutory notice period.

I will make personal contact with those consultees who set any comments or objections within that time to ensure they are content with this approach.

I also invite all comments and objections to continue to be issued to the gaerschools.consultation@newport.gov.uk email address or in writing to the Chief Education Officer.

 Yours sincerely

Amanda B Davies

Assistant Head of Education , Planning”

 

Seriously?!  If we can’t trust the Council to correctly write a simple Statutory Notice, how on earth can have faith in them that their lengthy proposals are accurate too?!  WE CAN’T!  Not to mention the WASTE of TAXPAYERS’ MONEY in having to pay again for the notice in the Argus, all the man-hours of extra work this lack of ‘clarity’ (read: mistake) will entail…

(If you have already written in since 10th April, don’t worry they will not disregard your submission, so you don’t need to write a third time!)

I have no confidence in the ability of certain senior council employees to deliver quality education on the Gaer.  If they can’t even get a simple Statutory Notice correct………

 

Why the way the Gaer schools have been treated is so unfair…

OK, bear with me guys, this is going to be a long post, but worth reading if you can.  I apologise from the start!

As most of you will know, at the same time as the proposal for our schools was announced, the Council also announced the plan to amalgamate Crindau and Brynglas schools.  That proposal was dropped after the first consultation phase, whereas ours has continued to the final consultation stage.

When I completed the comparison, it made me so angry, as it seems clear to me that they have not applied the same decision-making criteria to both sets of schools.  Take a look. (Sorry for the large and small letters, I cannot seem to change the font size on WordPress!)

Details taken from here: http://goo.gl/8zG86 and here: http://www.newport.gov.uk/stellent/groups/public/documents/report/cont708275.pdf

Debbie

Reports Summary

Brynglas/Crindau

“The six week Formal Consultation stage has now come to an end on the proposal to amalgamate Crindau Primary School with Brynglas Primary School in to an all-through school on the Crindau site. This report advises the Leader of the findings of that consultation and provides options for the next steps.

Meetings were held with all stakeholders and a considerable number of objections were received against the proposal to amalgamate. A table is included within the body of this report identifying the key themes of those objections and Officer responses.

Options are set out on the next steps in respect of this proposal, the preferred option is to cease the proposal and not to continue with the remainder of the statutory consultation process.”

Gaer

“The formal consultation stage of the statutory consultation process has been held during December 2012 and January 2013 on the proposal to amalgamate the above-named schools. This report discusses the findings of the formal consultation which lasted some 6 weeks. It is now recommended within this report that a statutory notice for the proposal to amalgamate the two schools is published for one month.

The implementation is to take place on 1st September 2013 or as soon as possible thereafter.”

  • Gaer: No mention of objections received; Brynglas/Crindau “considerable number of objections received”

  • Brynglas/Crindau mentions the siting of their ‘new’ school

  • Gaer report does not mention siting (“proposal to amalgamate the above-named schools.”) I.e drawing attention away from the real issue and point of contention – the loss of the Infants school and the cramming of all the children onto the Junior site.

Proposal

Gaer

“To proceed with the publication of a Statutory Notice for the proposal to amalgamate Gaer Infant School and Gaer Junior School to reopen them as one all-through primary school for 420 pupils with effect from 1st September 2013 or as soon as possible thereafter.”

  • Still no mention of the loss of the school site, just reiterates “all-through”

  • No Brynglas/Crindau ‘proposal’ section

Background

Brynglas/Crindau

“A six week Formal Consultation period was carried out during December 2012 and January 2013 on the proposal to amalgamate Crindau Primary School and Brynglas Primary School into an all- through primary school on the Crindau site. Consultation documents were produced and shared with all stakeholders at meetings, and were made available on the web site for downloading.

Meetings were held with:

• Governors,

• Staff groups with Trade Union representatives

• Parents.

• Schools within 2 miles

• Other stakeholders

• Neighbouring authorities

• Pupils were also consulted at both schools.

Minutes of all meetings were taken and copies are attached to this report, they were posted on the web site for all consultees to read and / or download.”

  • No mention of the initial reasons for the amalgamation – huge surplus at Brynglas, significant surplus at Crindau (equal to that at the Gaer Infants’ currently)

Gaer

“The Infant and the Junior school teams have always worked together to achieve a smooth transition for their pupils and are developing closer ties. The schools are active in their promotion of events to support transition.

A copy of the Formal Consultation pack is attached, which sets out how the two schools currently host a considerable percentage of surplus places. There is a national drive by Welsh Government to reduce surplus places to circa 10%. The Council have to consider this national priority within all school re-organisation matters. This proposal will address the current surplus on the Gaer school site.

This report sets out the findings of the formal consultation stage and the recommendation through options appraisal of the publication of a Statutory Notice.”

  • Gaer: a ‘reason’ given to amalgamate

  • Brynglas/Crindau: no ‘reasons’ given for the decision to open formal consultation originally (i.e. the initial reason(s) for the proposal

Formal Consultation

Brynglas/Crindau

“An overwhelming number of objections were received, a number of which were specifically in respect of Crindau Primary School and the impact that may result from moving Brynglas Primary School into the newly amalgamated Brynglas – Crindau Primary School.”

Gaer

“There has been a good attendance at formal consultation meetings and a robust dialogue has taken place where comments have been recorded and concerns of staff, parents and governors have been responded to verbally by officers and noted”

  • No mention for Gaer about an “overwhelming number of objections received”. “Robust dialogue” does not accurately convey the reality – not one person is in favour of this proposal amongst all stakeholders (save Ward Councillors) and have articulated that strongly and clearly during this period. It is misleading and inaccurate at the very least.

  • Strength of opposition clearly stated in the Brynglas/Crindau report

Responses

Brynglas/Crindau

“7 – detrimental to Crindau

23 – unnecessary

2 – no educational benefits

2 – Crindau governors not supportive

2 – other schools could accommodate Brynglas pupils

8 – Adverse impact on Crindau staff

total = 44″

Gaer

No breakdown as for Brynglas/Crindau report, however (summarising the table in the report, first point being the ‘objection, the ‘response’ in italics and my comments on the response below that):

  • Loss of excellent learning provision indoor and out, affecting quality of education/reduction in poverty

    • response: it will meet statutory requirements

  • Loss of community-funded outdoor provision at the Infants

    • response: they will have outdoor space at the new school, but community-funded provision will not be replicated at the new school

      • This is unacceptable. Community-funded provision show strength of connection between schools and community. Removing this indicates that the community does not matter.

  • Reduction in nursery places – end of rising 3s provision, negative impact on poverty reduction, building other nurseries will not impact our nursery as most children go on Gaer Infants

    • response: other nurseries to be built in nearby schools

      • Very few Gaer Nursery pupils go on to other local schools, with the exception of a few who do go on to the Catholic Primaries, so this element of the proposal will severely impact the Gaer community

    • private provision available in the area

      • Why should parents have to send their children to private providers when their local school used to be able to take them? The Gaer Nursery has an excellent record of providing early years education. Private providers may not provide the same quality of educational experience, or the same high quality of trained teaching staff the children currently have teaching them.

  • No information about the size/new wing plans

    • response: will be clarified once decision taken and HT-designate appointed

      • By then it will be too late for objections, and we will no doubt ‘get what we’re given’.

  • Lack of space in the Juniors

    • Existing outdoor provision will be used to build on, to extend the current building to accommodate the pupils, some outdoor facilities will be provided

  • Traffic on Melfort Road

    • Response: this will be dealt with within the design/planning

      • The actual concern is not about Melfort Road at all but Gaer Road, which is the access point to the Junior School. This is not responded to in the report. It is almost single-lane width, the school entrance is almost directly opposite sheltered accommodation for the elderly. Access is already extremely limited, and without huge investment to widen the road (which is not financially viable) this will be a terrible bottleneck for parents, staff, visitors and especially local residents with no hope of being able to do anything to ameliorate it.

  • Junior school not large enough:

    • Response: it will have ‘appropriate accommodation’ to host pupils and staff

      • However, no new staff room, no new hall or break out rooms, no libraries to replace those being lost

  • Junior building is listed

    • response: The Council will work through issues with CADW

      • The Junior school has been unable to get permission from CADW to upgrade the 1950s toilets to suit the C21st, nor to replace the leaky, draughty original windows with energy efficient, environmentally friendlier, warmer in the winter cooler in the summer windows, both of which are desperately needed to suit the needs of the current cohort of children, nevermind the much younger children that might shortly be educated there. How is it possible, then, that the Council will get permission to build a new wing when basic maintenance and modern repairs are not allowed?

  • Split-site amalgamation supported, no need to move Infants to Junior site

    • response: “considerable investment now available”, “would have regard for the outdoor environment potentially to be lost by the Infant School, incorporate as far as possible the equivalent provision in outdoor facilities, subject to budget.

      • No answer given to the actual concern – the actual need to move the Infants to the Juniors

      • At previous meetings we were told there is ‘no pecuniary (financial) advantage’ to an amalgamation. Here, ‘investment’ is being held out as a benefit unavailable to other schools in Newport and therefore something we should be grateful for

      • We don’t need or want the investment, we want to amalgamate and keep the 2 sites and no capital investment is necessary

  • Timing insufficient

    • Response: Possible modification of implementation date to Sept 2014

      • This is a minor point, we are against the whole proposal, not just the timing of it

  • 420 pupils on Junior site

    • Response: possibility of lowering capacity

      • By 2018 379 pupils expected to be on site, 90.2% of 420 capacity. If capacity reduced, where will the ‘excess’ pupils go?

    • Possibility of extending the site

      • Extending it where? Surely the ASD school would need the whole Infant site if they are to accommodate ages ranges from 3-19 as planned.

      • If they do not need the whole site, why do they need it at all? Why can they not remain on the Brynglas site in their own unit, attached to Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Teyrnon occupying the main Brynglas schoo

Objections

Brynglas/Crindau

“An overwhelming number of objections were received, a number of which were specifically in respect of Crindau Primary School and the impact that may result from moving Brynglas Primary School into the newly amalgamated Brynglas – Crindau Primary School.”

  • 44 in total, with the main thrust being that the amalgamation is unnecessary

Gaer

“The overall responses have highlighted the fact that staff and parents of the Infant School are concerned about many aspects of the amalgamation, not just that the outdoor facilities currently enjoyed at the Infant School will be lost. It has been recognised by the Council that the outdoor environment has been developed over many years with direct contributions from parents of the school and the local community with many fund raising events to cover most if not all costs. The Governors of the Infant School have been active in their support of staff using the outdoor environment to maximise the potential of their pupils.”

  • Very different representation of opposition for the 2 proposals, especiallylanguage used to express level of opposition

  • No mention of the unanimous opposition of both governing bodies

  • No mention of the letters sent from the governing bodies to this effect

  • 51 representations apparently received, and 1 over 400-signature petition, all against the proposal

  • No mention of the responses from staff – all against proposal

  • No mention of HTs of both schools’ opposition to the plans

  • No mention of the total opposition of local parents to the plans

  • No mention of the pupils’ opposition and the artwork and representations they submitted to this effect

Issues not addressed in the report – Gaer

  • The reason for the single-site amalgamation

    • The only apparent reasons given are ‘educational benefits of a through-school’, ‘surplus’ and ‘funding’, and taking those ideas:

      • Educational benefits

        • Not disputed, but as other schools have proven, this can be effectively done on a split-site (Monnow, St Julians and Liswerry, for example). It is not necessary to amalgamate on a single-site to realise these benefits

      • Surplus:

        • Infants running at approx 20% surplus, Juniors around 33%.

        • Capacity of new school almost identical to current 2 schools, so the plan does not address the surplus in this way, just vastly reduces the amount of space, outdoor facilities and indoor provision available to the children

        • In 2018, projected 379 pupils in ‘new’ school (a figure which would not br different if the schools did not amalgamate, or did but on a split-site basis). This is 90.2% of 420 capacity (less than 10% surplus, in line with WAG requirements). So shortly there will be no ‘surplus issue’ as it will be dealt with within 5 years

        • No mention is made in any report of the Mon Bank Sidings housing development project, situated in the Gaer Ward. Although a school is planned for the site, this is many years off, and in the meantime there must be somewhere for the primary-aged children to go. All other local schools are full. Within walking distance, only the Gaer schools have the potential to take those children. Although this does not affect capacity, it could well affect positively the surplus issue even sooner than 2018. Why is this not mentioned?

      • Investment

        • This is not a benefit as the result of the investment will not be an improved school building (no desperately needed investment will be made in the ‘Junior’ part of the school), nor will the facilities exceed what is currently offered (they will be far less), nor will the space available increase (it will be reduced by nearly a half after building works/extended car parks are completed)

        • This is rightly viewed as a false incentive to amalgamate by all stake holders. No-one is under any illusion that what we will receive will equal or better that which we currently have. The vast majority of the funds will be rightly used to facilitate the ASD school, as they are funds designated to establish the ASD school.

Surplus

Brynglas/Crindau

Though not mentioned again in this report, the initial report highlights surplus places as the driving force behind the proposal to amalgamate on the Crindau site. Brynglas have a surplus of 88%, Crindau approximately 19% year on year. No building projects in the vicinity planned, so, by extension, no chance these figures will ‘right themselves’ per se.

  • The surplus at Crindau will not be addressed by the decision not to proceed with the amalgamation. However, it is not considered important enough to continue in the face of strong opposition and against the lower than expected numbers in Brynglas.

Gaer

Gaer Juniors have surplus approximately 33%, Gaer Infants approximately 20%.

  • Monbank Siding, huge housing project, a short walk away. Although new school planned for that site, it is not in the first phase of development and is many years off.  Where will those parents send their children until the new school is built?

  • Figures show, regardless of Monbank, within 5 years surplus will be reduced to less than 10%

    • Crindau surplus is on a level with Gaer Infants, and far higher than the projected surplus on the Gaer site within 5 years, yet the Gaer proposal continues whereas the Brynglas/Crindau proposal has been shelved.

“The proposed amalgamation, which means closing both schools and establishing a new primary school will deliver a new leadership model for a new all-through school. The benefits of amalgamation are on educational grounds to improve the way in which all pupils access education and raise standards. The new leadership team will be led by a Headteacher who will able to assess the use of the outdoor environment in the delivery of education and will have direct input to the design of the new buildings. All work to date has been to develop the concept stage of the design, as it is not considered appropriate to add detail without the direct input of the new Headteacher, the school team and the pupils who will also be consulted on any designs.”

  • Again, no mention of the centre of the proposal – removing Gaer Infants’ site from the Gaer children and amalgamating on a single site
  • Educational benefits – this is true, but a single-site amalgamation is not a necessity to deliver these benefits

Preferred Option and Why

Brynglas/Crindau

“Option 1 is the preferred option, as the findings of the Formal Consultation stage evidence that:

  • the numbers of pupils expected to move from Brynglas Primary into the amalgamated school are significantly smaller than when the statutory consultation process first commenced.
  • those pupils that remain in Brynglas Primary can be accommodated in other schools within the Shaftsbury and Malpas communities including Crindau under the normal admission process.

Therefore, the continuation of the statutory consultation process for amalgamation cannot be justified.”

  • Reason for cancellation: differences in figures between anticipated and actual. (Also implied throughout the document: strong local opposition to the proposal.) Amalgamation can no longer be justified

Gaer

“Option 1: To proceed to publication of a Statutory Notice to ensure that the uncertainty that has been in existence over the future of the two schools can now be resolved appropriately and as speedily as possible.”

  • Reason: the uncertainty caused by the Education department’s own flawed proposal, its determination to ignore and avoid any and all opposition to the proposal, its extremely long report-forming process between the formal consultation period and the Cabinet Member’s decision to move to statutory consultation, this uncertainty means that the proposal should move forward regardless of actual facts or strength of opposition within the community.
    • This is insulting and makes no sense whatsoever. The reason to choose option one should be because it is the best solution for the Gaer, it can be delivered on time and within budget, and provide excellent facilities and provision for the pupils.
    • However, as this is patently not the case, the reason given is totally self-serving and cyclical in its logic
    • In truth, the reason should be: “Option One is the preferred option, as we must vacate the Gaer Infants’ site due to the pressing need to find a long-term home for children with ASD in Newport after we have to move them from their existing, excellent unit in Brynglas school, as it is not desirable for ASD children to be educated and integrated with Welsh-medium pupils”.
      • If this is not the case, surely the unit can remain in its current location at Brynglas school alongside the Welsh medium primary, Bro Teyrnon, as their presence on site would not affect the Welsh school’s capacity, facilities or provision, until such time as the money is available for a new build ASD school, or another school site becomes naturally vacant within Newport.

Gaer

The adverse comments above can be further tested through the statutory notice stage of the process.”

  • Adverse comments” is a disingenuous phrase to cover what has been “Overwhelming opposition” (to use the phrase that was applied to the Crindau/Brynglas amalgamation responses)
  • It it illogical to suggest that ‘adverse comments’ should be further tested through the statutory notice stage:

    • Not one of the concerns or opposition points raised have been appropriately addressed by the Council in the report, so why and how could the next stage ‘test’ the comments? Nothing has changed, we are just as opposed as we were at the very beginning.
    • There are no amendments to the original proposal which take into account the views and concerns raised, so exactly what ‘testing’ is expected?
  • It is not the “adverse comments” that need to be tested, it is the proposal itself – its viability and whether it is in fact the right proposal for the situation concerned (I.e the Gaer schools)
  • This statement can only mean one or both of the following:
    • It is hoped that fewer or no oppositions will be received during the statutory phase from the stakeholders at the Gaer, through apathy or a feeling that ‘what’s the point in complaining, it’s a done deal anyway’ kind of attitude, thereby removing some of the obstacles in the way to achieving this plan. Certainly opposition is as strong now as it has ever been, so they cannot be hoping that we are now in favour of this.
    • That it is hoped that the Minister for Education, Mr Leighton Andrews, will agree this proposal, not recognising the strength of opposition on the Gaer, nor the flimsy nature of the proposal, nor the fact that this proposal has never been about addressing issues at the Gaer schools but rather resolving problems within the LEA that have arisen from a lack of forward planning for either ASD school provision or, more crucially at this time, a permanent location for Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Teyrnon

My Conclusion

Brynglas/Crindau

A flawed proposal to amalgamate Brynglas and Crindau on the Crindau site, one which with a little bit of planning and research would never have seen the light of day (surely the real numbers at Brynglas were a detail extremely easy to ascertain prior to the start of this process), was rightfully stopped by the Cabinet Leader.

Parental, school and community opposition was received, evaluated and its strength acknowledged. This level of opposition helped to highlight the unnecessary nature of the proposal.

Gaer

A flawed proposal to amalgamate Gaer Infants and Juniors on the Junior site, a proposal whose very ‘reasons’ in favour of it are easily and robustly countered with facts and figures of the Council’s own reports, a proposal which is almost universally opposed in the Gaer (save for our Ward Councillors), a proposal which would tear the heart from a whole community, this proposal has wrongly been continued to the statutory consultation stage by the Cabinet Member.

The facts show that

  • Educational amalgamation and its benefits can equally be achieved in a split-site amalgamation, as has happened in most other schools in Newport in recent years.
  • ‘Surplus’ is neither addressed by this proposal (same capacity), neither is the fact that in 5 years the surplus will be reduced to less than 10% even if we keep the 2 school buildings, nor is the huge Monbank housing project in the Gaer Ward, and the educational needs of the early child occupants mentioned
  • Investment’ is neither sought nor needed to gain the benefits of a through school on a split-site, it is simply a by-product of the desire to make the Gaer Infants’ site the new ASD school, and therefore some money must be spent on making the Junior building fit-for-purpose. If the Junior site could accommodate all the children with no need to build, little if any money would be spent on the Gaer Primary school

Parental, school, governor and community opposition was received, virtually ignored and eventually its strength dismissed through weak ‘summarising’ of main opposition points and substance-less comments from the Education Department.

This level of opposition, which seems to be much stronger than that at Crindau, and on much stronger grounds, has been totally swept aside because it is truly inconvenient for the LEA.

Indeed, a long report by Cllr Al Nuaimi opposing the proposal and calling for the CM to cancel the consultation, was dismissed in four words “The comments are noted”.

It is quite clear to the people of the Gaer that this proposal is not in the best interests of the children of the Gaer, nor was it ever intended to address issues at the Gaer. It is to free up a school site to provide needed school accommodation for ASD children being displaced by the arrival of Bro Teyrnon at Brynglas school.

Just, Fair and Equitable?

Brynglas/Crindau

Is the decision to cancel the consultation process fair, just and equitable?

The facts would show that yes, it is, and the Cabinet Leader took the correct decision following advice from the Education Department.

Gaer

Is the decision to continue the consultation process fair, just and equitable?

The facts would show that no, it most certainly is not, and the Cabinet Member took the wrong decision following advice from the Education Department.

The same criteria in decision-making have not been applied to both consultation processes:

Whereas one school was ‘saved’ from amalgamation due to the application of the correct figures (after the incorrect ones had been used – i.e. Brynglas pupil numbers), the other (Gaer schools) have not been ‘saved’ from this proposal even though the figures (true surplus numbers within 5 years) prove the statements in the report to be incorrect or even false.

‘Overwhelming opposition’ was cited as a reason not to continue one process, ‘testing adverse comments’ (rather than the accurate term ‘overwhelming opposition’) was given as a reason to continue with the other.

The End.  (Phew!)

How to object…Before 10th May 2013!

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Against the plan?  Want to oppose it?  It is VITAL that you write in to the Council.  Comments on this blog, or Facebook etc will not be enough 🙂

Write to:

gaerschools.consultation@newport.gov.uk

Person to address it to is Mr James Harris, Chief Education Officer

 

Or by snail mail to:

Mr James Harris

Chief Education Officer

Newport City Council

Civic Centre

Godfrey Road

NP20 4UR

Please email a copy of your letter to gaer.infants@newport.gov.uk, or send it to the school (FAO Mrs Haile, Gaer Infants School, Melfort Road, Newport, NP20 3FP).  We want to keep a record of all the objections that are sent in, so that we can ensure that they are ALL presented to the Welsh Minister for his consideration.

Get scribbling, folks!

What this Proposal will mean for YOU – local residents…

Neighbours logo

For those of you who live in the streets surrounding the Junior school, you will be strongly impacted by the proposal. There is no plan to widen Gaer Road, to make access easier. You already know what a nightmare travelling around those roads is at drop-off and pick-up times. Imagine nearly doubling the number of children arriving and leaving, practically overnight. And within a few years, nearly 400 children would be accessing the site at the same time!! And then, there’s the 32 nursery children leaving at 12pm from the morning session (32 different parents, many in cars parking up the road), and another 32 arriving at 1pm.  Currently, the school is mostly accessed at 9am and 3.20pm. Under the new proposal, parents will be arriving, and leaving, virtually all day.  And that’s not taking into account the doubling of staff that will happen, as the Infant staff move down to occupy the site also.

Where are the parents going to park? Infant children cannot run in on their own, they have to be taken to the door by parents, so they will have to park and leave cars in and around the Gaer Road.  Maybe they will decide to park in the Gaer Inn?  Or the Gaer shops car park? The Community Centre car park will be closed for quite a long time due to the renovation works on the flats, so that will reduce possible parking again.

Hopefully you, as a local Gaer resident, are against this proposal because it is so terrible for our children or because of how it will affect you and your family or business. However, you may feel that it’s fair that the Infants becomes the ASD school, because Newport children with ASD need a specialist school.

I think we would all agree with you that children with ASD, and their parents, deserve to get the very best education. But I hope you would agree with us that it cannot be at the expense of other children’s education.  All children deserve the best chances, and this proposal takes from one group to give to another.

A few years ago, the Council applied for £10m to pay for a new ASD school, from the 21st Century Schools Fund bid at the Welsh Assembly Government. Their intention was to build a new school. (see p24, http://www.newport.gov.uk/stellent/groups/public/documents/plans_and_strategies/cont543111.pdf). Sadly, they did not get the funds, and the following year they applied for, and received, just £1m to use towards providing an ASD school in Newport.

This has been the catalyst for the desire to clear the Gaer Infant School, and to use it as the ASD school. If they had received the funds, they would have been able to provide a purpose-built school, and we at the Gaer would not be in this position now. The ONLY reason for this proposal is the lack of funds for another school, and has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the Gaer schools.  We, however, are the ones who are having to ‘pay’ for the ASD school.

So, if you will be affected by the proposals, or even if you are not but feel as we do, that this is terrible for the children of the Gaer and grossly unfair, PLEASE write to the Council to say so, before 10th May 2013.

Gear up for the Gaer Community Rally!

Thursday 25th April @ 7pm, Gaer Junior School

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Please, join us to hear more about the impact this plan will have on the Gaer children, and the wider community.  We hope to have local press and the AM and MP present to understand our concerns and why we oppose this proposal.

Gear up for the Gaer!!

We are a community worth fighting for!

What this proposal will mean for YOU – parents of Junior children…

Although the Infant children are the ones losing most from this crazy proposal, the Junior children will lose almost as much. Think about this:

  1. To fit the Infant children on site, they will have to build a new wing. This will include specific outside space (small yards or gardens) to facilitate Foundation Phase education. However, this means the older children will no longer have access to:

    1. The top playground, as this is the intended site of the new wing and its outside spaces, and possibly more of the grassed areas around that playground

    2. To provide enough parking spaces for all staff members, a large section of the fields to the left of the school (we think) will be tarmaced over and off-limits to the children.

    3. The ‘fence’ separating the 2 schools is not a boundary fence, just a safety fence, and there really is nothing stopping the Council moving it further down towards the Juniors, to incorporate the top field into the new ASD school. We cannot stop them from doing this as they own all the land anyway. So not only will the older children lose so much of their outdoor space from just bringing the Infant children and staff down, but they could also lose a large portion of their fields to the ASD school as well.

  2. The wing built will only be large enough to accommodate the Infants that cannot be squashed into the existing school. Classrooms deemed ‘empty’ will be used for the new children. This means the Juniors will lose:

    1. The library

    2. The computer room

    3. The film club room

    4. The break-out room for group working

  3. No new hall, dining room or staff room will be built, so this means:

    1. 14 separate classes of children will need access to the hall each week during poor weather for PE lessons

    2. It will be much more difficult to do concerts and shows, as practice time will be extremely limited due to timetabling the hall

    3. Some Infant children already use the dining room, but it is just a small percentage of the Infant children. Once all on one site, lunch times will be even more rushed and crowded, as up to 420 children use the one small dining room during the lunch break.

    4. For the staff, as no new staff room will be provided, all will have to use the current, tiny, staff room. This will impact on staff morale and integration, as it may be that most decide to, or are forced to by circumstance, spend their lunch break in their classrooms. This is unfair on all staff.

Some may think that because money will be spent on the Junior school making it fit for purpose for the Infant children, that this is a good thing because the Junior school needs investment and maintenance. The Council have made it abundantly clear, however, that no money will be spent on the Junior building except for constructing the Infant wing and making the Infant classrooms in the existing schools appropriate for use. NOTHING AT ALL will be spent on much needed repairs, such as the toilets or the ageing windows in the rest of the building.

So the Junior pupils will not benefit AT ALL from this proposal. They gain nothing at all, not even a better quality of building, and lose so much of their outdoor space, and ALL of their non-classroom internal space. This is so unfair on all the children. Please, fight for the Junior children. This proposal gives them nothing.

Next, what it will mean to you, as a local resident….