The Council’s public consultation begins on Monday 23 March and ends Tuesday 5 May.  St Davids schools for the future is holding two meetings during that time to gather your views and turn them into a proposal on behalf of the whole community.  Here are the 8 things you need to know to get up to speed on the issues.

1. What’s a surplus place?

Each school or college building has a running and maintenance cost and a maximum number of students it can physically house.  If it’s not full then there are surplus places, but building costs stay the same, so surplus places waste money. Welsh Government is pushing hard for Local Councils to cut surplus places and save money, and this is one of the main drivers for reorganising our schools.

PCC looks at projected numbers for each school over the next 3-5 years and estimates the number of surplus places that there will be.  Based on that they decide to combine schools, close schools etc.

YDS has a capacity of 482 students.  Right now it’s full, but the forecast is for 160 surplus places
by 2020 (although that ignores about 120 out-of-catchment students currently at the school).

Pembrokeshire College has about 2,000 full-time places.  Plans for it to run a new vocational unit
in Pembroke would shift students there from its main site leaving it with about 400 surplus places.

Basing the proposed 6th form unit at the College would instantly remove that problem.

2. What’s in the Council proposal?

The key points of the January 29th proposal that is now up for public consultation are these:

  • To turn Ysgol Dewi Sant into an 11-16 school
  • To turn Ysgol Bro Gwaun into an 11-16 school with new Additional Learning Needs places
  • To create a new 11-16 secondary school on the current Sir Thomas Picton site
  • To centralise A-levels for all of these at a new 6th form centre at Pembrokeshire College
  • And to turn Tasker Milward into a 3-16 Welsh medium/bilingual school

3. What’s new since January?

We have been told by Kate Evan Hughes, the Director for Children and Schools at the Council that the 11-16 YDS would be too small to survive unless it combines with at least two local primary schools to make a 3 site “all-through” 3-16 school.

Although the plan is for all A-level funding to be routed through the College, the detailed decisions about A-level provision would be made by an “A-level Committee” including school heads and governors, but with no representation from the College.

Kate Evan Hughes and Sharon Lusher, principle of Pembroke College, are now open to the idea of YDS retaining a few A-levels as part of what she calls a Hub and Spoke model.

4. Hub and what?

The hub and spoke model is a potential shift from the idea of centralising all A-levels at Pembrokeshire College.  The suggestion from PCC and the College is that YDS might retain a handful of A-levels, or possibly become a centre of excellence for those A-levels, if it could get enough students (12 or so) to run the courses.  It is not clear whether this might also work for Ysgol Bro Gwaun.  It’s hard to see how it could work for Sir Thomas Picton, being so close to the College site.  The details of how this model would work have not yet been presented.

5. Who pays for what?

All our secondary schools are funded by Pembrokeshire County Council with money from Welsh Government.  Pembrokeshire College is funded directly by Welsh Government and, unlike the schools, is also able to raise income by charging overseas students, consultancy work, etc.  It’s income is 88% government, 12% self-generated.

A-level courses should only run if there are enough funded students to pay for them.YDS and other Pembrokeshire schools have been subsidising A-levels with too few students from 11-16 money to keep them going.  That is going to be clamped down on, so YDS will simply not be able to afford to keep running the range of A-levels it does now. Pembrokeshire college is free to subsidise small A-level courses from self generated income and does so to keep them going.

6. What is 21st Century funding?

It’s a big pot of money from Welsh Government to invest in physical projects that  transform school buildings, transform the use of resources, reduce costs or cut surplus places.  If your project is not transformative, you need not apply!

PCC won £76 Million which it has had to match with £76M of its own.  £20M is set aside to fund a loan for the Council’s share.  So there is around £132M to transform our schools.  It’s earmarked for

  • Replacing the Bush Road school in Pembroke with new 460 vocational places £42M
  • alterations to Sir Tomas Picton £38M
  • alterations to Ysgol Bro Gwaun £7M
  • building the 6th form unit at the College £4M – another £4M to be provided by the college

There is currently no 21st Century funding at all allocated to Ysgol Dewi Sant.

7. Who is Donaldson?

Prof Graham Donaldson is a former teacher who rose through the ranks to play a leading role in the Scottish Government’s curriculum reform programme which is the foundation for Scotland’s current success in education.  Last year Welsh Government commissioned him to do the same thing here.  His report is not yet policy, but it’s a strong indicator of the way things will go. Important for us are: putting the web and digital skills at the heart of education, stronger links between schools and local economy and community.  Scrapping Key Stages and making the progress through schooling much smoother – especially the transition from primary to secondary.  See the “all through” schools page.

8. What is a Voluntary Aided School?

In a VA/Voluntary Aided school the capital costs of running the school buildings switch from being the responsibility of the Local Authority to being split between the Church (15%) and Welsh Government (85%).  The Church in Wales has offered to make YDS a VA school.  The thinking is that this would reduce the cost of YDS to Pembrokeshire County Council, and would potentially attract new pupils from outside the catchment whose parents want them to have a Christian-based education.

The Church is absolutely clear that the school would be inclusive and welcome and take into account the different traditions and beliefs of all faiths.  This would formalise a strong link between School and Cathedral that already exists.  It would however mean that any future building projects related to the school would depend on the Church supplying or applying for Government funding.  There would no longer be access to Council funding for school improvement.