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Concerns that poorer children are missing out on school choice

15 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf. Photo by Dai Lygad is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Martin Shipton

Around 40% of pupils at a primary school who wanted to go Cardiff’s oldest Welsh medium high school have failed to get in, leading to concerns that children from poorer parts of the city are being discriminated against.

Super Furry Animals keyboard player Cian Ciaran, whose son was one of the pupils from Ysgol Hamadryad in Cardiff Bay who didn’t get a place at Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf, despite living in the catchment area, said: “This high refusal rate seems disproportionate, leading me to believe that no other catchment school has experienced such a significant impact.

“This alarming statistic suggests that children from the southernmost arc of Cardiff, who are the most deprived in the city, are at risk of being systematically excluded, denying them equal opportunities available to children from more affluent areas. I understand that this is something non-Welsh medium schools in our area also experience and the percentages in question are a far cry from the 88% of children from across the city who got their first choice preference.

“The recent figures also highlight the inadequacy in provision for Welsh-medium places, with the three Welsh-medium high schools combined unable to accommodate the numbers.
“So far as Hamadryad is concerned, the council has had at least seven years to prepare for such an inevitability and these figures demonstrate the inexcusable misuse of public resources and further neglect and discrimination of the South Docks , Butetown and southern Grangetown communities.”


A spokesperson for Cardiff council responded: “Following the first round of secondary school offers, 612 places at Cardiff’s Welsh-medium secondary schools have been allocated and there are currently still 18 places available at two of the city’s three Welsh-medium secondary schools. Families have until March 15 to accept or refuse offers, or submit changes to their preferences.

“The council has received confirmation that only one child in Cardiff’s Welsh-medium primary schools is yet to submit an application for a place at a Welsh-medium secondary school.

“Of the 17 Year 6 pupils enrolled at Ysgol Hamadryad, 16 pupils have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools – 11 pupils at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf and five at Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr.

“There are sufficient places remaining for those applicants who did not submit more than one preference on their initial application and for any other applicant who requests a place for Welsh Medium secondary school.

“The current catchment area boundaries of the Welsh-medium primary schools and secondary schools were agreed by the council’s cabinet in March 2020 following a city-wide consultation with schools, parents, pupils and the wider community.


They added: “The take up of places in all schools is kept under continual review, but this can fluctuate in each school’s catchment area. Although total intakes to Welsh-medium secondary school have fallen this year and are projected to reduce further in the 2025 and 2026 intake years, the council is committed to working closely with partners on Cardiff’s Welsh Education Forum to continue to support the growth of the Welsh language and Welsh-medium school provision serving each area of the city.

“In common with many local authorities nationally, Cardiff is experiencing high intakes to its secondary schools as a result of high birth rates in the period 2008 – 2016. The council has supported families by permanently or temporarily expanding ten of its secondary schools in recent years, ensuring that there are and will continue to be sufficient places for all applicants in a Welsh-medium or an English-medium, whichever is their preference. At present, there are 275 places remaining surplus between four English-medium and two Welsh-medium schools.

“If a place is not available at a secondary school of an applicant’s preferred language medium within three miles of their home address, all learners are offered free home to school transport to their nearest alternative school of that language medium.

“When applying for secondary school places, parents are strongly advised to make full use of the five school preferences available to them. This way if their first choice is unavailable, their second choice will be considered and so on, until a place is confirmed. We try to offer parents their first-choice preference, but this is not always possible. By putting more than one preference parents are more likely to get a place at a school of their choice.

“Some 98.7% of children applying for a Community Secondary School place including Welsh Medium schools have secured one of top three preferences up from 98% last year and 88% of children have secured their first preference for a Community Secondary School place up from 86% in 2023.

“This year there has been a significant decrease in the number of refusals made in catchment. Each of the applicants refused admission within catchment who stated another preference for another Welsh medium school have been offered a place and are already included in the allocated figures for those schools.”

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