Posted: Thu 19th Oct 2023

Councillors Demand Clear Vision for Education Transformation in Newtown /
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Oct 19th, 2023

WHERE is the overall vision to transform education in Newtown – councillors have asked.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Tuesday, October 17, members looked at the proposal for Newtown which would see two schools eventually merger.
The council had already proposed a new school building for Ysgol Calon y Dderwen which was created following the merger of Ladywell Green Infants School and Hafren Junior School in 2021.
In June, the council revealed their intention of looking for more funding to construct a bigger school building.
The preferred option is that Ysgol Calon y Dderwen and nearby Treowen primary school merge from September 2025.
Pupils would continue to attend Treowen until a new school building at Ysgol Calon y Dderwen is finished, and they can move over.
The merger is supposed to remedy the school surplus spaces problems in Newtown.
Conservative Cllr Lucy Roberts said: “The first point I wanted to raise was about seeing a plan for all the schools in the Newtown area.
“It concerns me that we’re chipping away at different areas and don’t seem to have a plan for the town as a whole – it would be better if we could address it all in one go.
“My next question is on the wellbeing campus and the security we have or not, knowing that is going ahead – and what would happen if the rest of it (wellbeing programme) didn’t go ahead?
“How secure are we that we’ll get a funding to build the new school?”
School’s transformation manager Marianne Evans said: “There are seven primary schools in Newtown.
“The problem we have in Newtown is that we don’t have land available to build schools on – so it has to happen on a phased basis, and this is the starting point.
“The other issue we have is the fact we do have a number of different types of schools, English speaking schools, Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd which is a Welsh medium school, St Mary’s the county’s only Catholic school.
“In terms of the wellbeing campus – all I can say is that we are working closely with the health board and have a cohesive critical path for the school and the campus and are working on an integrated masterplan.”
When the idea of a bigger school build was revealed in June, Maesyrhandir primary school had been included in the merger – but has now been discounted.
Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies said that the condition of the Maesyrhandir primary school building “is not great.”
Cllr Davies said: “They deserve equally good facilities for their education – if this goes ahead it’s hard to know what will happen to Maesyrhandir.
“I’m afraid it will be left behind.”
Education portfolio holder, Liberal Democrat Cllr Pete Roberts said: “The uncertainty around the North Powys Wellbeing Programme is an intense frustration.
“If we had certainty of one direction or another we could move forward.”
“Maesyrhandir is a concern there will need to be additional investment in the building.
“One thing I would highlight is that it is building up contacts with Ysgol Cedewain (special school) with a view with sharing and taking advantage of some of the facilities in that school.
“It’s not completely on its own.”
He added that this had been a “factor” in deciding which of the primary schools was a better fit with Ysgol Calon y Dderwen.
Detailed recommendations from the committee will accompany an updated report on the proposal which will go in front of senior councillors at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, October 24 for a decision
The Park area of Newtown has been earmarked for the North Powys Wellbeing Programme campus which includes a mini hospital.
The council is working with Powys Teaching Health Board on the development, which is supposed to bring health, social care, education, voluntary sector and even housing together in one place and reduce the need for patients to travel for treatment outside of Powys.
The cost of the total scheme was estimated to be £122 million last year and will be funded by the Welsh Government.
The hope is that it will be built and open by 2026.
A spokesperson for Powys Teaching Health Board said: “We’re full steam ahead in terms of submitting our business case to the Welsh Government next summer and that remains the plan.
“Detailed work on that remains on schedule.
“Hopefully from December onwards that will translate to the next phase of public engagement on the programme as more detailed plans for the overall campus start to emerge.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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