City gets tough on surplus places

6th May 2005 at 01:00
A consultation paper on dealing with surplus places in the Welsh capital avoids naming any closure-threatened schools but sets out ambitious plans to reduce a pound;51.5 million repairs backlog to pound;5m by 2010.

The Cardiff council report recommends combining school closures with improvements to other school buildings to help raise educational standards.

It says the repairs backlog has built up because of a previous lack of funding. Closing some schools would release cash for others, but the scale of improvements would also depend on the level of capital funding available.

Cardiff is the latest Welsh local education authority to start addressing the country-wide issue of falling rolls. A reorganisation and rebuilding scheme in Carmarthenshire could result in up to 40 schools closing, while Denbighshire is reconsidering its plans to close up to 14 following public protests.

An informal advisory group, set up last October to consider the options in Cardiff, has rejected doing nothing as "wasteful" and instead endorses a city-wide approach to reorganisation.

This would involve removing surplus places on an area-by-area basis to ensure viable local secondary schools and feeder primaries with buildings and facilities "fit for purpose" by 2010.

The report also notes empty places are concentrated in the deprived south of the city. Given pupils' achievement is strongly linked to socio-economics, it suggests any reorganisation should try to avoid creating schools with catchment areas "skewed to either end of the socio-economic extreme".

Another option would involve closing schools with the highest numbers of surplus places. Cardiff had around 51,549 pupils in 2004, predicted to fall to 45,000 by 2014. Some 41 schools use less than three-quarters of their places.

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