Posted: Thu 4th Jan 2024

Changes to Learning Support Classes Agreed for Pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taf /

Changes to learning support classes for pupils in Rhondda Cynon Taf with additional learning needs have been agreed.
Last month the council’s cabinet approved the changes which involve the relocation of the observation and assessment class at Penrhiwceiber Primary School to Abercynon Community Primary School from September 2024.
They will also see the transfer of the class for pupils in years 3-6 with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) at Abercynon Community Primary School to create a through provision at Perthcelyn Primary School from September 2024.
Another change is to establish one early years assessment and intervention class for pupils under statutory school age with significant presenting needs at
Abercynon Community Primary School from April 2024.
The fourth change will be to establish two Welsh medium primary phase classes at the new Welsh medium primary school in Rhydyfelin (YGG Awel Taf) for pupils with significant ALN from September 2024.
Finally, it is proposed to establish one class for pupils in years 7-11 with ASD at the new 3-16 school on the Hawthorn Primary/High School site (Ysgol Afon Wen) from September 2024.
Back in May, cabinet agreed to consult on the proposals and then in September cabinet approved moving to the next stage of the process and publishing statutory notices on the proposals.
This triggered the objection period. Seven objections were received, all in relation to the proposal to transfer the class for pupils in years 3-6 with ASD at Abercynon Community Primary School to create a through provision at Perthcelyn Primary School.
They raised concerns over community resources and the curriculum offer, disruption of pupils and transition support, parental refusal of relocation, the consultation process and reporting of comments and submissions and transport.
The cabinet report said there were a small number of pupils that would be directly affected.
If there was parental opposition to a relocation of their children’s provision to the proposed Perthcelyn learning support class, supported mainstream placements in the existing settings could be explored, the report said.
Turning to the Penrhiwceibr observation and assessment class, the report said places there were intended to be short-term and it was highly likely that the majority of the pupils would have moved on to their long-term  placement before the proposed implementation date of September 2024.
Secondary schools hosting learning support classes for pupils with ASD are funded through the council for one specialist teacher and two learning support assistants at an approximate cost of £131,500 per class.
Primary schools hosting early years learning support classes are funded for one teacher and one learning support assistant at an approximate cost of £97,600.
Primary phase Welsh provisions will be funded for one teacher and one learning support assistant at an approximate cost of £97,600 each.
To ensure the council is able to meet the needs of its ALN pupils, funding of approximately £424,000 is needed.
The creation and relocation of the learning support classes will lead to a transportation cost but this increase in cost is seen as a necessity
in order to enhance provision for RCT’s most vulnerable pupils, the cabinet report said.
It said that costs could not be quantified at this time as placements were pupil-led, but given that there would be a net increase in the number of learning support classes, extra funding was likely to be needed.
There has been £330,000 already set aside following the agreement by cabinet to progress with the original proposal to establish three additional learning support classes for pupils with significant SEBD (Social, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties) and therefore no extra funding would be needed if consideration was given to resuming this proposal, the report said.
The cabinet report said the proposals would ensure the council had carried out its statutory duty to review arrangements for supporting pupils with ALN within the county borough and had identified necessary steps to “ensure the sufficiency of its provision for pupils with significant ALN who require
specialist placement.”
It said the proposals supported the delivery of the RCT WESP (Welsh in Education Strategic Plan) and one of the core aims of the ALNET (Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal) Act by working towards the development of a fully bilingual ALN system within the county borough.
Councillor Rhys Lewis, cabinet member for education, said it will help the council meet its statutory duties in an area that’s seen a significant increase in demand and complexity in recent years, adding the extra provisions will go a long way to help them address that.
He said: “Can I say that the proposals before us in no way represent a reduction in service or a cut. In fact quite the opposite with an additional circa £424,000 investment in additional learning needs and ASD provision in the county borough.”
He said he recognised a small number of pupils would be affected but welcomed the establishment of the Welsh medium learning support classes at the new school in Rhydyfelin. ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​

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