Cymer School Closure Proposals To Go To Consultation

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Councillors meet to discuss proposals to shut down Cymer Afan Comprehensive.

Cymer Afan Comprehensive school in Port Talbot is facing closure meaning pupils having to travel 10 miles or more to the nearest secondary.

The Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board approved o consult on the plans - in a meeting on Thursday.

Parents of pupils at Cymer Afan Comprehensive met for the first time on Wednesday night, since learning about proposals to close their school.

226 children aged 11-16 attend the school in the upper Afan Valley, even though the school's capacity is 640.

The building has a £3m maintenance repair bill hanging over it. 

If closure plans are approved pupils will be offered the chance to receive their secondary education at the new Ysgol Newydd Margam, Cefn Saeson or Ysgol Maesteg from September 2019.

Margam is 10 miles from Cymmer while a journey to Maesteg is 4 miles and Cefn Saeson, which is in Cimla, is 8 miles away.

"Closure will affect the whole community"

Cymer Councillor Scott Jones and fellow councillors Nicola Davies and Ralph Thomas said, "What is proposed must be judged firstly on whether it will improve the educational chances of our local children. So far we have heard nothing that gives us such confidence.

In recent years we have seen improved educational outcomes at Cymer Comprehensive with attainment above average when factors such as social and educational disadvantage are taken into account.

"This is something we must celebrate and build on rather than dismiss and close down.

"The pupil numbers at Cymer Comprehensive are small but this allows for the extra tuition by dedicated teaching staff which has seen the improved standards of recent years.

"We are also concerned that the closure proposal is not accompanied by clear plans  for what will come next for Cymer Comprehensive pupils.

"Any meaningful consultation must provide a clear outline of options and choices available to Cymer Comprehensive pupils and their parents.

"It is not acceptable that NPT Council should have a preferred option of bussing Upper Afan pupils to Margam before the opinion of parents and pupils have been canvassed.

"And while the educational future of our children must be our top priority we must also take account of the social and economic implications of this proposal.

"The closure of Cymer Comprehensive would seriously undermine the social and economic fabric of the Upper Afan Valley threatening long term sustainability.

"Not only does the school employ over 60 staff members but closure will affect a range of local  shops, public facilities and other businesses.

"The proposed closure of Cymer Afan is but the latest blow to public services in the Afan Valley which faces amongst the highest levels of social disadvantage in Wales.

"This is both unfair, totally unjust and is not acceptable to us. 

"We fully understand that the UK Tory Government policy of austerity and public service cutbacks is making it next to impossible to run quality public services.

"However in making the difficult decisions that are required we would have expected that our local council to have given greater priority to promoting educational opportunity and well-being within our most disadvantaged communities."

Letter to the Director of Education

We've been given access to a copy of a letter sent to Neath Port Talbot Council's Director of Education Aled Evans, written by The Governing Body of the Federated Schools of the Upper Afan Valley.

It reads:

"We are writing to you prior to your considerations of the Federated Schools of the Upper Afan Valley in the Education Skills and Culture Scrutiny Committee.

We are most concerned about the way in which options have been considered.

As a result of the last few days there is significant worry on the part of the pupils, parents and staff.

In particular, we wish to know that during the last three months we have been developing approaches to the development of 3-16 education in the Upper Afan Valley.

It is vital that the curriculum, assessment, teaching and resources are all of the highest quality for the local children.

These developments have been part of public discussions and reviews of the Federation.

We want to work with the Local Authority to ensure the safeguarding of pupils and to build upon the progress in standards of the children at 16 years of age.

Our concerns arise from the needs of the children and community of the Afan Valley.

The Federation was introduced in 2013 with a promise that it would be protected as a core part of the service in the Upper Afan Valley.

There have been savings in the Afan Valley with the transfer of the swimming pool, the library and other resources from the Local Authority to other bodies.

We are looking forward to playing a leading role in the education and regeneration of the Afan Valley.

We look forward to your deliberations. We believe that we have an important role to play as Neath Port Talbot moves towards the middle of the 21st Century.

Yours sincerely,

The Governing Body of the Federated Schools of the Upper Afan Valley"


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