Lower birth rates blamed for infants’ school closure and shared facilities for two high schools
Nicholas Thomas Local Democracy Reporter
Senior councillors have agreed to the closure of a Welsh-medium infants’ school and the relocation of two other schools, with ‘500 fewer births annually’ part of the decision-making.
“Falling” pupil numbers at Cwm Glas Infant School, in Llanbradach, are projected to worsen, and the council has proposed shutting down the site and moving pupils to the nearby Coed y Brain Primary School at the end of the current academic year.
Meanwhile, the council is also hoping to open a new “sustainable” school campus in Rhymney, where Ysgol Y Lawnt and Upper Rhymney Primary School will be based separately, but with some shared facilities at a cost of over £17m.
Pattern of falling pupil numbers
The council’s cabinet backed both proposals yesterday, and a new round of public consultation will be held on each scheme in the coming weeks.
Carol Andrews, the cabinet member for education, said a pattern of falling pupil numbers at the Welsh-medium Cwm Glas Infant School was “unfortunately projected to increase even further”.
She said lower birth rates across the county borough meant there were around 500 fewer children born annually in the past five years, and when it came to families choosing schools, the council couldn’t do anything about “parental preference”.
Andrea West, the council’s sustainable communities for learning manager, told the cabinet “adequate support” would be given to staff at Cwm Glas whose jobs were affected by the closure, which is earmarked for July 2024.
In Rhymney, the relocation of Ysgol Y Lawnt and Upper Rhymney Primary School is projected to cost £17.6 million, of which the council will contribute slightly more than £6m, with the remainder coming from the Welsh Government.
‘Further to travel’
An initial consultation with the school community had raised several “emerging themes”, including that the new site would be “further afield for pupils to travel” to, Ms West said.
Council leader Sean Morgan noted the relocation plan was “one of those things where there are winners and losers”.
Ms West said the council disputed the claims pupils would have to travel further to the new school site, which won’t be “out of the catchment area” currently in place.
Chris Morgan, the cabinet member for leisure, also raised the idea of the community being able to use the sports facilities at the new site in Rhymney outside of school hours, and Ms West said the plans for the school would consider the “needs of the community”.
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