Surplus report delayed

19th January 2007 at 00:00
publication of a report widely-feared to bring school closures and job losses in Denbighshire has been delayed, it emerged this week. It will mean that jittery heads will have to wait almost six months longer than expected to know their intended fate.

Consultants were drafted in to come up with answers to the county's surplus places problem last May at an undisclosed sum of money. It came two years after officials were forced to back down from closing 14 rural schools in the county after huge opposition from parents.

The latest shake-up plans, affecting both primary and secondary schools, were due to be announced in April. Consultants are also working on a strategy for 14-19 provision that will prove controversial. The TES Cymru recently reported (December 229) that post-16 education in Denbighshire is currently in a state of flux, especially in Rhyl, where two sixth forms are believed to be under threat of closure.

Part of the consultants' remit is to assess the situation in the seaside town. However, it is anticipated that Rhyl high school and Blessed Edward Jones RC high school will close, with pupils transferring to an expanded Coleg Llandrillo.

David Evans, the council's corporate project manager, would not be drawn on the likely outcome of the final report but he hinted it would be "challenging." He did not give a reason for the report's delay.

"One of the questions Cambridge asked me was how challenging they could be," he said. "But if they're not challenging, the council would be disappointed because that's exactly why they were appointed."

Denbighshire is keen to come up with a dynamic, long-term education policy that will tackle the question of surplus places and meet the stated aims of the council's vision for 2025. This includes the goal of "excellent schools with high standards of educational attainment".

One head said he had appreciated the chance to talk to the consultants and meet them face-to-face. But he did not want to be named for fear of rocking the boat.

"There could be jobs on the line," he said. "We're all waiting to see what the outcome is. When these proposals come out there needs to be a full consultation."

Stephen Sharp, Cambridge's lead consultant, said he hoped to present some of his findings at a heads' conference in March.

"At that stage there will be a number of options for each area of the county. We will then draw up a final report and the county council will have to decide on action."

Cambridge Education works across the UK. It is part of the Mott MacDonald Group a management and engineering consultancy business based in Surrey.

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