Consultation deadline on Welsh-medium school

Local people have a couple of weeks left to have their say on plans for a new Welsh-medium school for Grangetown and Butetown has re-opened - a year after the previous one went back to the drawing board.

The derelict grounds for the Hamadryad option are behind the Victorian hospital building

Cardiff Council has published the options - which as expected this time includes a proposal for a new 420-pupil primary school on a site in the grounds of Hamadryad Hospital in Butetown. The controversial option to re-develop Channel View Leisure Centre has been re-drawn to re-develop the nearby play centre instead.

The proposals see options of both new Welsh and new English primary schools built - one in Grangetown and one just over the river from the other in Butetown.

Public meetings have been held in Butetown and Grangetown but residents and parents still have time to give their feedback online by the deadline of October 19th. They've also been told that they don't have to give a response to every proposal just those areas they are interested in.

Officials told residents doing nothing is not an option - given rising numbers of children anticipated - and it was up to them to tell the council what they wanted to see.

Full details of the options and the consultation here

The new Welsh school would be for 60 places in each year from September 2017, with a starter class from 2016. The consultation also includes plans to expand Ninian Park Primary with an extra 30-pupil form entry to deal with the increasing numbers of English-medium pupils. This would involve building on the existing temporary classroom on the edge of the park. Two primary schools in Butetown are also included in the proposals.

Click above for the basic school location plans for Hamadryad (left) and Channel View.

The Hamadryad option would be for a two-storey school - including a nursery school - next to the park and behind the existing hospital building. Housing association flats are also planned nearby.

The re-drawn Channel View option would now see the leisure centre remain - and the two-storey school be built on the other side of the carpark. The idea would be for the all-weather pitch to be relocated and available to the school. It would be built on the site Grangetown Play Centre, which is losing its council funding and is threatened with closure. With this proposal, a new "open access" play centre/community building would be built as part of the new school, right next to it. It would have independent access and could be used during the school day for play or by the community - as well as after school hours. It would not be run as part of the school or out of the education budget however, so it will still need a community/council solution to staff it.

Two of the options include having new schools on both the Channel View and Hamadryad sites - one English and one Welsh. The total cost of all the changes in the area is put at up to £14m.

This shows the how the new school Hamadryad - along with an expanded Ninian Park - would deal with the forcecast deficit of 181 places in 2016

What appears clear from the consultation events is that the big pressure for more school places and new schools is coming from growth in population in Grangetown. A shortfall of 181 places is forecast by 2016, so something has to be done and two new schools are on the cards.

Certain options could mean Grangetown pupils face further distances to get to school.

The latest move comes after frustration at the cancelling of a starter class for the eventual new school at the Ninian Park Primary School.

Only three pupils had registered but campaigners blamed poor publicity rather than a lack of interest, with half a dozen prospective parents turning up to an open morning at the school last week to see if it would be re-instated.

Campaign group Ymgyrch TAG said: "There was an interesting open morning on Friday with about 6-7 parents from very different backgrounds, who were really enthusiastic about WM education, so we have every reason to be optimistic. Over this next year we live in the hope that the Council will have begun work on the new school, and in that respect, it is a relief that the consultation begins this week".

Meanwhile, local councillors were only told about the consultation exercise the day it began - and two days before the first drop-in event.

It is 18 months since options for locations for the £6m school first went out to consultation - with controversy after it emerged one option would involve building on the site of Channel View Leisure Centre. The process went back to the drawing board and proposals for the school to be built at a less controverial location next to Hamadryad Hospital, across the River Taff, followed after a land deal with a housing association. But this was delayed by the General Election among other reasons.

Before that, there was an attempt to expand the Welsh medium school Ysgol Pwll Coch in Leckwith but this led to opposition.

The starter class in the old Tan yr Eos annexe at Ninian Park was intended for pupils ahead of the new school eventually opening, hopefully in September 2017. Senior councillors and officials have already been accused of "systematically mismanaging" the whole issue.

It has been complicated by rising demand for English-medium school places as the population of Grangetown rises, while a lack of suitable and available sites.

MAY 2015: Campaign urges parents to consider Welsh medium option

Parents who want their children to start a Welsh medium education at a primary school in Grangetown have been urged to put their names down for a starter class at Ninian Park Primary.

The TAG campaign group (@ymgyrchtag) said parents should consider the choice on what was the former site of Tan yr Eos classroom from September.

"It is intended that this class will be the first intake for the new Welsh-medium school that is promised for the Butetown and Grangetown wards," said the campaign. "This school seems likely to be located next to Hamadryad Park and to open in 2017.

A consultation about the new school was postponed until after the General Election and the campaign said parents should be aware that even if they have registered for another school but would prefer the new Welsh-medium class, they can contact the council to inform them that they want their child registered for Ysgol Gymraeg Pwll Coch and the Ninian Park class in particular.

Hospital grounds site proposed for new school

The derelict grounds are behind the Victorian hospital building

A new site for a proposed Welsh medium primary school for Grangetown and Butetown has been put forward - but it will be after May's General Election before a formal consultation can begin, almost a year since the last one.

A land deal has been struck with a housing association looking to build flats in the grounds of the Hamadryad Hospital - which would now free up that site for the school to open by September 2017.

Pupils would also use the park and a changing rooms might be built

Although just over the river from Grangetown, where most of the pupils would be drawn from, it would avoid a controversial option of redeveloping the Channel View Leisure Centre for a new school and leisure hub.

Results of a consultation last spring have also just been published which show how unpopular that proposal was. A total of 77 were in favour but 320 were opposed. The distrust wasn't helped by a poorly presented concept for the Channel View site, lacking in detail and lack of assurances that leisure facilities would be accessible during school hours. A report to the council's cabinet on Monday admits local residents were "very protective" about local facilities.

The new option involves a Welsh-medium school on the hospital grounds site, where local residents had been battling against a housing association development on traffic and parking grounds. Pupils would use the park and playing fields next door.

Sketch plan of Channel View option under new proposals

But the option of a new school being built near Channel View is still an option - but the leisure centre would stay intact and there would still be room for community play facilities, albeit not the current play centre. The proposal would involve pupils using the centre and the all-weather pitch during the day, as well as sports pitches at The Marl.

There is a growing demand for both Welsh and English medium places - around 40 and 140 a year - especially with more housing developments in Grangetown. The wider proposals also propose an expansion of Ninian Park Primary School, where there are already temporary school buildings. These would be used in the short term from September 2015 for Welsh-medium pupils until the new school is ready.

Campaigners urge parents to consider choosing Ysgol Hamadryad

"Our campaign for a Welsh-medium community school in the Butetown and Grangetown area took yet another dramatic turn when Cardiff council cabinet discussed plans that included a proposed site next to Hamadryad Park.

"The other option is for a school next door to – but apart from - Channel View Leisure Centre, which effectively puts paid to the idea presented in last summer’s engagement process to combine the school with this facility.

"May we say we very much regret that this latter proposal was not developed into a fully fledged plan that could have been an exciting way of combining and guaranteeing community facilities for the long term. However, such plans required leadership and vision from local politicians, and the will to bring the community together – but instead we saw hand-wringing and crude attempts to sow discontent and division.

"Under the circumstances we appreciate why officers had to put forward less ambitious proposals, but we remain very concerned about the uncertainty surrounding the future of our leisure facilities.

"Looking on the bright side, we are encouraged that there will be a starter class for the new school in September 2015, and we would urge all new parents in the area to consider sending their children there, when the opportunity arises in May to look again at their choice. The new school will be for all of the children and families of Butetown and Grangetown, and if anyone has any questions or doubts please contact us via our Facebook page at “Ymgyrch TAG”.

"We are now looking forward to working with the council to ensure all preparations for the new starter class and new school go as smoothly as possible, and to encourage all parents in the area to consider bilingual education for their children.

"All being well, Ysgol Gymraeg Hamadryad will have its first children come September, with a new building opening its doors in 2017. At last, the children and parents of Butetown and Grangetown will have the same educational choice and opportunities as others across the city."

Jo Beavan Matcher, TAG Campaign Chair (letter to Echo, 9th February)

Campaigners' relief but work still to do

The campaign group Ymgyrch TAG gave a "cautious welcome" to the latest proposals and were to discuss their response in detail at a meeting on Tuesday 27th January (Lyndon social club, Clare Rd, 7.30pm).

Jo Beavan-Matcher, TAG chair called the announcement "a relief".

She welcomed the proposal to locate the starter class at Ninian Park from next September but hoped there would be enough places to meet demand.

"One obvious disappointment is that the school will not have a permanent location until 2017, despite the initial promise of a school by 2016. Tied in with this is the fact that delays mean a statutory consultation is not possible until after Westminster elections in May, which will contribute to delaying the process further."

Ms Beavan-Matcher said the Hamadryad option would mean new challenges "but as a campaign we are keen to discuss them and to cooperate with the council in order to achieve the outcome we all want to see."

Huw Williams, secretary of Ymgyrch TAG expressed dissatisfaction in the way the original Channel View option had been handled while they still remained "anxious" for the future of the leisure centre and play centre in thje current economic climate and "we can only hope local councillors have better ideas about how to secure their long term future".

He said there had been a "desperate need" for vision and leadership from local councillors but "it seems that dividing the community and creating discord was their priority".

"As a campaign we must now focus on what's to come, and continue with the positive attitude we have adopted from the outset - by ensuring a Welsh-medium school for the children of Grangetown and Butetown as soon as possible. We need to start thinking seriously about its future: this is a unique opportunity to see the Welsh language thrive in an area that is poor in resources but rich in culture and heritage - with the language being a central part of that."

He said confirmation of the details about the school needed to be communicated from the start to parents.

Facebook and @ymgyrchtag

Read the full report to cabinet here

JUNE 2014: Councillor wants more school site options explored and community voices 'heard and respected'

A Grangetown councillor has asked Cardiff Council whether other options for the site for a new Welsh medium school are still possible, in the wake of controversy and confusion about the future of Channel View Leisure Centre.

Councillor Ashley Govier has published his own response to the engagement document for the future of schooling in Grangetown and Butetown after the deadline passed for public responses.

He's asked a series of questions, including:

  • If there was scope for building a new school on the Grangetown Gas Works site - earmarked for housing
  • Whether a development site near the old Hamadryad hospital in Butetown is now available
  • Whether the option of expanding Ysgol Pwll Coch could be looked at again while negotiations take place with developers for the gas works site.

He also wants to know if Channel View has a future as a stand-alone leisure centre. Senior councillors told him at the end of last month that it was "more likely" to survive if leisure facilities were incorporated into a new Welsh school, and the education budget.

More than 100 people attended a public engagement meeting as part of proposals for expanding school places in Grangetown, as well as neighbouring Butetown.

Council officials presented their options, including a possible revamp of Channel View, with a £6m Welsh medium school to include leisure and play facilities shared by the community.

But there was strong opposition for any downgrading of Channel View at the meeting, with fears access to the public would be lost during the school day. Officials admitted it was possible some access could be lost but there was still no proper exploration of this before the meeting moved on to discuss other schools.

Mr Govier said there has been a "lack of clarity" over whether a school, education and leisure can be accommodated at Channel View and the need for more detail - while protecting leisure services - before he can decide whether the site is suitable.

In his response to the council, he added: "The council process thus far, I believe has been transparent in what it is asking. i.e. in this case site considerations and no more than that, however, there is frustration stemming from a breakdown in the trust between the community and the council.

"Recent budgetary events and local party political battles haven't helped so it is vital the education department bears this in mind when attempting future engagement with the community. Whatever the view, however reasonable or unreasonable, logical or illogical, local voices must be more than just heard, they must be respected by the cabinet in the decision making process."

Officials were also forced to agree to another meeting to go through the list of 18 locations which were rejected as unsuitable for a new school.

Mr Govier has already been looking at the long term possibility of a Welsh school being built by any developers of new housing at the old gas works, but this would be some way off. Now he is asking whether the council could build the school under its 21st Century Schools budget - and the money from developers in Dumballs Road could instead be diverted to securing leisure and play facilities at Channel View.

The Butetown land near the Hamadryad site was due to have housing built on it but the Newport-based developers went into administration.

Mr Govier also says the community "would take great comfort if they had security" for the threatened play centre, next door to Channel View. The council is to look at a range of options later this summer.

The councillor also wants to ensure that the expansion of Ninian Park Primary School does not lead to a loss of outdoor space for children. The proposals also include increasing the size of Ninian Park school from 400 pupils to 600 places to meet the rising demand for English-medium education - including new developments in the area, including homes planned for Bessemer Road.

Extracts of letter to local councillors, 31 May 2014, from cabinet member Julia McGill:

The engagement document sets out that it would be possible to accommodate a school, leisure services and play services on the Channel View Leisure Centre site - and that is the case. It also makes it clear that detailed design of the site has not yet been carried out; in other words how these services would be designed onto the site would follow if the site were to be selected.

Certainly at the drop-in sessions and meetings it is being made clear that the site may be set out differently in the future.

The council is under severe financial pressure and one of the ways that we are seeking to protect non statutory services, like play and leisure services, is to link them to education developments. We already have an example of this approach in creating a combined primary school and community centre in Pontprennau.

Developing the Channel View site might be an opportunity to create sustainable leisure and play services for the future. Leisure and play are discretionary services.

The budget reductions affecting leisure and play services at Channel View were limited for this financial year, but this was to give time to re-shape services on a sustainable basis and hopefully to lever in resources from sources outside the Council. The kind of reduction in the resources available we are likely to see over the next three years means that it is not possible to commit to these services continuing more or less as now, irrespective of whether or not a school is included on the site.

Co-location of a school with leisure and play facilities makes it more likely, not less that these services can continue to be offered on the site.

Co-location of leisure and school facilities is a common model throughout the UK (over 20% of all leisure developments in England are now associated with schools). Being part of a school does not necessarily mean that leisure facilities are only available outside school hours.

Access can be managed to allow shared use - the more difficult issue is identifying the resources to run the leisure component, although there are examples of where this has been done.

On future management of leisure centres:

Currently, there are no plans for any leisure facility closures, other than the Star Centre, which is wrapped up with the development of the Splott Hub facility. Any closures will be determined after further work on the budget for the next three years. Clearly, within these discussions, we will have to look at strategic need, current and future levels of demand and financial performance. Just for your information, I can confirm that of our leisure facility stock, Channel View Centre operates at the highest subsidy per user (in excess of £4 per head) and the lowest annual attendance figure (under 100,000 people).

On play services:

As well as considering leisure services, the Cabinet will also be exploring issues around Children's Play in the coming weeks.

The demand for a 400-place Welsh medium school in Grangetown is particularly strong, but the lack of obvious sites as more housing developments swallow up land has been an obstacle. The new school would start off with 60 pupils. There has been a vocal campaign for a Welsh medium school, both locally but also across in Canton, with parents resisting an original plan to expand capacity at Ysgol Pwll Coch in Leckwith to take in more pupils - including meeting more demand from Grangetown. There were fears that the school would suffer if it got too big, with an extra 90 pupils to start with, but that number increasing as the school grew.

One vision of what a new Welsh medium school could look like

It will be nearly a year between formal consultation events over proposals for a new Welsh medium primary school for Grangetown and Butetown. To say it has been a long process is an understatement and campaigners have expressed their frustration.

As one letter said in the South Wales Echo: "While the council continues to delay, confusion reigns. Parents are now having to decide on their children’s education, yet they have no idea whether the promised starter class for a Welsh-medium school in the Grangetown area will be available in September 2015."

While when and where it will be built are still uncertain, a local architect has put forward some speculative designs on how it could look.

Nick Socrates says he envisages a beautiful building for local people to get excited and optimistic about, a design which can help with the regeneration of an area. He's not been appointed by the council - this is just one architect's vision from within Grangetown.

Nick has deliberately made his design location non site-specific but thinks Channel View could be redeveloped and still include leisure.

Consultation meetings were held in June with controversy over a proposal to build the school on the Channel View leisure centre site, and redevelop community leisure facilties within the school. Another site in Butetown was suggested, while there has also been a call to rethink other potential sites, including the old gasworks site off Ferry Road - which is earmarked for future housing.

No-one knows what the council will come up with - with the future of leisure centres also in the mix as budget cuts bite.

Nick says: "This design of the school was conceived and developed as a speculative proposal. It is a representation of what the school could look like and how this school development has the potential to regenerate an area.

"There are several sites earmarked for the location of the Welsh medium school (see map above) - some of which are much more plausible than others.

"In my opinion the Channel View site on Ferry Road is the site which makes the most sense - not only in terms of amenity but also - due to what it can give back to the community in terms of regeneration. It can very comfortably accommodate a two-form entry school over two floors.

"This seems to be quite a controversial site as many people want to save the outdoor activity/play centre and keep the leisure centre solely public. However, the outdoor activity centre is in a state which desperately needs attention and the leisure centre, as it stands, has high operational costs. A school being located here does not necessarily mean these local facilities would be lost.

"The school can exist, and even generate an income, by integrating these community facilities – integrated play and leisure facilities which are managed and maintained by the school. The school can act as a community resource, opening its facilities to local people, offering community education, opening the school facilities for community use, hosting adult education classes, making links with local businesses and so on.

"Schools are the most valuable resources in a community and they should be developed as a community resource. Whether it is a shared community facility and/or a community facility attached to the school. Regeneration must be about enhancing the life chances of young people, and education has to be the key for that. The school is a safe haven and provides an alternative to the community."

There has been a growing campaign for the 400-place school to be built within Grangetown, to meet local demand. There is also rising demand for English medium places due to a growing local population.

Follow: @ymgyrchtag - campaign for Welsh-medium school; @nick_socrates Socrates Architects

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