Plans for new Welsh medium starter school could mean January opening
Lewis Smith, local democracy reporter
Neath Port Talbot Council has agreed to move forward with plans to open the borough’s first ever Welsh medium primary starter school at Neath Abbey.
The new starter school would be based on the site that was previously home to Abbey Primary School, and could welcome its first pupils as soon as next January if fully approved.
The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.
Council bosses heard how there were a number of benefits to the starter school model, including the ability to effectively manage class sizes and the school budget, as well as reducing the mass movement of pupils from other schools.
Disadvantages however focused on the fact it could take a number of years to deliver growth.
If given the go-ahead, the school would provide places for up to 210 full-time primary age pupils and 45 part-time nursery age pupils by September 2029.
The school would not be fully occupied on opening but would instead grow year on year, with full occupancy not expected until 2029.
10 year target
In the meantime it is understood that work would be needed to refurbish and modernise the building to make it suitable for childcare and younger primary aged children.
This would include refurbishing the two toilet facilities in the main building, remodelling classrooms, upgrading the school hall, and adding new flooring to the reception area and corridors.
A complete electrical upgrade would also be required for the building, alongside external works such as new fencing. It is estimated these works would cost around £200,000.
Speaking at a meeting held on Wednesday, June 29, Cllr Nia Jenkins, Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Training, said: “This council has a 10-year target to increase the number of Year 1 children taught through the medium of Welsh from 16.8% in 2020-21 to 31% by 2032, and this proposed new school will help reach that target.
“It also complements the national vision for the Welsh language, to have a million Welsh speakers by 2050.”
A consultation exercise regarding the school has already taken place with most people broadly in favour of the plans, however, there have been some concerns raised over traffic and the age of the former school building.
At the meeting however, the cabinet agreed to move the starter school plan to its next stage, which is the publication of a statutory proposal to establish the new school.
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