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Spiralling costs jeopardise Welsh medium school build

30 Nov 2023 3 minute read
Proposed Welsh Medium Primary School, inclusive of childcare provision, at Chartist Way, Tredegar.

Elgan Hearn Local Democracy Reporter

Concerns have been raised as to where will the extra funding come from to build a new Welsh medium primary school in Blaenau Gwent.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday, November 29, concerns were raised about the escalating costs which is delaying building a new 210-pupil Welsh medium primary school in Tredegar.

Costs double

In just over a year, the costs of building the school have more than doubled from an estimated £6.2 million in September 2022 to currently £13.5 million.

The initial funding had already been agreed several years ago by the Welsh Government under its 21st Century Schools Programme, which is now known as the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.

At the meeting, council leader Steve Thomas pointed out that under the Welsh Government’s in year budget cuts announced in October, reductions would be made to its capital funding for education and Welsh language projects.

Councillor Thomas said: “This will not affect funding we’ve already agreed and awarded, applications for new or additional funding may be impacted.”

Potential redesign

Cabinet member for social services Councillor Haydn Trollope said: “I understand that things have gone up with the cost of living (crisis). When we are building the new Welsh primary school – what happens if we go over budget?”

Resources chief officer, Rhian Hayden said: “We would need to identify any overspend as early as we can and potentially need bid for extra monies from Welsh Government. If that is not forthcoming, we would need to reconsider the project and look to see if there’s any way to redesign the project and reduce costs.”

Cllr Thomas “believed” that the Welsh Government would see the school building project as a “priority.”

A contractor has been appointed to build the school, which will become known as Ysgol Gymraeg Tredegar.

The school was initially expected to be built by April 2024 but this has been delayed by a year with a finish date of spring 2025 now being mooted by the council.

Any children already signed up to the school will be taught in temporary accommodation at Bedwellty House in the town.

The planned school has been described as “seedling,” which means it would start with a first intake of early years and reception pupils, expanding on an annual basis through the school years. It will take six years to fill up with pupils from three to 11 years old.

The school would be federated with the county borough’s only current Welsh medium primary school, Ysgol Gymraeg Bro Helyg in Nantyglo. This means both schools would have the same governing body and headteacher.

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