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Minister washes hands of Rhondda and Tonyrefail Schools Reorganisation

Despite the information put out by RCT Council which stated that the Education Minister would have the final decision on whether to create through schools in the area it appears that is not the case. Welsh Government have put the ball firmly back in the court of the Council to make the decision on the creation of 3 - 16 and 3- 18 schools.


In a letter to Education Director Chris Bradshaw dated 14 August the Welsh Government's Deputy Director of Schools management and Effectiveness said:


"The Minister understands that during consultation, the local authority informed consultees that the Minister would consider the proposals in due course and would decide whether or not they should proceed. There may be a perception locally that the Minister will make a decision in relation to all proposals that affect sixth formers. This is the first time that the local authority has brought forward secondary school proposals under the 2013 Act and it appears that they assumed that the effect of the proposals on 3 of the schools would automatically mean that Ministerial approval was necessary. The Minister takes the view that the local authority was not in a position to make public statements about whether the Welsh Ministers would determine the other proposals or not, as at that time, he had made no such decision."


Welsh Liberal Democrat Campaign Manager Karen Roberts who has been at the forefront of the campaign against the proposals says the situation is "shambolic."


"The Council tried to give the impression that they were working closely with Welsh Government on all of this, but clearly they were not even working closely enough to understand the rules.


"It was clearly stated from the start by the Director that the final decision would rest with the Education Minister, and the consultation was carried out with that in mind.


"Now is seems that is not the case. It is also evident that the Director of Education in RCT has known this since the middle of August yet nothing has been said publicly.


"The campaign group are currently seeking a judicial review against the Council and this flaw in the process should give more strength to that case.


"The best thing the Cabinet can do is scrap these ridiculous plans now."


The reorganisation plans involve the removal of sixth forms from Tonypandy, Porth and Ferndale and the closure of primary schools in Tonypandy, Penygraig and Porth to form 3 to 16 schools in those areas. A new 3 to 18 schools is planned to be built at Tonyrefail and an expanded 6th form created at Treorchy.


The Minister has decreed that the Ferndale part of the proposals needs to be examined more closely by his department as they involve the removal of the sixth form from the school. However at Porth and Tonypandy the plans state that the existing schools will be shut and new schools created.


Ms Roberts added


"This will seem like a ridiculous technicality to parents who are worried only about their children's education but the rules governing school reorganisations are very precise. They are also very complicated as can be seen by this mix up. You would have thought, however, that the combined legal expertise at RCT Council could have figured it out or at the very least checked if they were uncertain."