Plans to expand Welsh-medium primary school get go ahead
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
Councillors have agreed to move ahead with plans to expand an existing Welsh-medium primary school in Cornelly in Bridgend County Borough.
Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) also approved the first phase of plans to build a new English-medium primary school.
A consultation is now underway on plans to replace both Corneli and Afon y Felin primary schools with a new two-form entry English-medium school and expand Welsh-medium primary school Ysgol y Ferch O’r Sgêr.
Council leader Huw David said BCBC has “the greatest ambition” for children in North Cornelly.
“We want to deliver state of the art facilities and I don’t think anyone would describe the current facilities as state of the art.”
The council is proposing to discontinue Corneli and Afon y Felin primary schools and create a new two-form entry English-medium school with a 60-place nursery and 15-place additional learning needs resource centre from September 2023.
If the proposal is approved, the new school would be built on land at Plas Morlais – currently owned by Valleys to Coast Housing – and the council would exchange land vacated at Afon y Felin for the site.
BCBC is also proposing to enlarge Ysgol y Ferch O’r Sgêr, turning it into a two form-entry Welsh-medium school with a 60-place nursery on the existing Corneli Primary School/Ysgol y Ferch O’r Sgêr site from September 2024.
The integrated children’s centre, which currently sits on the Corneli Primary site, would remain and new facilities like outdoor sports facilities would be added.
A report by Lindsay Harvey, the council’s corporate director for education and family support, reads: “Traditionally, when bringing schools together, BCBC has most frequently closed the ‘old’ schools and created a ‘new’ school wherever possible (this has the advantage of creating a ‘fresh start’ for predecessor schools).”
In 2017, the Welsh Government gave the council “approval in principle” for a “second wave of investment” in its schools. At the time this was estimated at a cost of £68.2m.
The report also reads: “Further costs, which were to be determined, may be required and these would be associated with additional infrastructure capacity.”
In January 2020 the council’s cabinet agreed to move forward with investment in schools in Bridgend West through the Welsh Government’s Mutual Investment Model, which allows private partners to build and maintain public assets.
Private company Gleeds has been selected to work in partnership with the authorities to develop a site-specific brief. The company has since undertaken site visits of the preferred areas for school development.
Welsh Government approved the council’s strategic outline case submission in respect of the Bridgend West schools proposal in November 2020.
For the proposal to move ahead, a 28-day consultation must be undertaken with governors, staff, parents, pupils and interested parties.
The council’s cabinet agreed to launch a consultation on the plans during a meeting held on Tuesday January 19.
Cllr David said: “The schools do a wonderful job in the facilities they’ve got but certainly Y Ferch O’r Sger is currently not in a condition that we would want it to be.
“Likewise, Afon y Felin and Corneli are aged schools and we want them to have the best quality buildings and facilities in and outdoors that we can provide.
“The requirement from Welsh Government is that, wherever possible, we develop two-form entry schools and that is why this option is being proposed.
“We will be significantly expanding the number of Welsh-medium places in the West of the county borough if these plans are progressed.
“That is an ambition and a duty that we have. This proposal will help meet that as well as help meet the needs of children in English medium education too, vitally with proposals for much better facilities.”
The leader said the council is keen to gather the views of parents, staff, governors and school pupils on the proposal.
“Once that consultation is complete, we will consider the next steps,” he added.
Councillor Charles Smith, cabinet member for education and regeneration, said: “If the preferred option goes ahead, I think it’s a win, win, win, win situation because what we’ll get there is the first major investment in education in North Cornelly in 40 years.
“We’ll get 21st century schools… we’ll increase the amount of available green space available to the public, there’ll be an element of affordable and or social housing, and we’ll have the regeneration of a brownfield site.
“I hope people will see this is a good news item. Take part in the consultation and we’ll do our very best to provide something really good for North Cornelly.”
The Llangewydd and Brynhyfryd representative urged residents in Bridgend county borough not to “make assumptions” about the proposal.
“If you’ve got any queries about the plans, please come to us and ask for the facts.
“Don’t go to your friend on Facebook and get their version of the facts because unless they’re blessed with psychic powers, they’ve got no means of knowing what the facts are.
“Just come to us and we’ll be open and transparent about what we are considering.”