Council uses 'sandpit' sessions to consult pupils

6th August 2010 at 01:00
A south Wales council has trialled a unique way of consulting with pupils over its contentious school reorganisation plans.

Blaenau Gwent is proposing to axe its school sixth forms and send pupils to a new post-16 "learning zone" on the former steelworks site in Ebbw Vale, to be run by FE provider Coleg Gwent.

This decision has prompted a series of protests and petitions from pupils at the Brynmawr foundation school, which is threatened with closure.

But the council, which says it is committed to "modern and wide-ranging consultation", has recently held a series of innovative pupil consultation events.

Working with the University of Wales, Newport, the council held 12 "sandpit" sessions, each two hours long. Pupils aged between six and 18 were invited to say what they liked and disliked about their schools.

They used software to write about their schools, and building blocks to model an ideal school before filling in a questionnaire.

Council officials and Coleg Gwent staff were on hand to answer questions.

Many pupils said they liked going to their school. They liked the ethos, community spirit and uniform, and felt inspired by their teachers.

However, many pupils had a poor opinion of their current facilities, saying their classrooms were "old-fashioned", "too small", "dark" and plainly decorated.

The sessions are part of the council's formal consultation process, called "We're listening". The consultation closes on August 14.

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