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.
on behalf of the Save the Gaer Schools Campaign.