So here we are, solidly into the Public Consultation period on the Council’s plan for the future of our schools, and if you were there at St Davids City Hall on Monday March 23rd for the first of the Council’s public meetings, you will have heard that things have shifted a lot since January.
The original Council proposal was to remove the 6th forms of YDS, Ysgol Bro Gwaun, and a combined STP/Taskar Milward and concentrate all A-levels in a new 6th Form Centre to be built in the grounds of Pembrokeshire College.
On Monday we heard Kate Evan-Hughes, the Director for Children and Schools at the Council, say “We have moved from the centralised 6th form to something more fluid,” something that will “meet community as well as learner needs,” keeping a “6th form identity” in the schools.
In the last news letter we talked about the role of the web and distance learning in a 21st Century solution to our education needs. On Monday we heard that the Council has “started significant work on this”, and that they will “look to put in the infrastructure using 21st Century schools funding”.
Two days later at the consultation meeting in Fishguard Kate Evan-Hughes talked about Ysgol Bro Gwaun as a potential community hub, maybe with small business units actually in the school. She was encouraging the community to go back to a blank piece of paper in what it wants for the school.
There was still a lot of concern in these communities about the effect of the travel times to and from a centralised 6th form centre, but there was general acceptance that the current sixth forms in both schools are too small to pay for themselves, so something needs to change, and a sense that some mix of 6th Form Centre, online learning, and some A-levels still in the schools could be a way forward.
Haverfordwest was a very different story and the community there was in no mood for compromise. It accepts that STP and Tasker Milward need to combine, but the new school would have a 6th form easily large enough to survive, and there’s no way the community wants to lose that to a 6th form centre up the road at the College.
So it’s a big challenge to come up with a solution that works for Haverfordwest, Fishguard and St Davids, but if it’s going to work, it has to work for all of us.
We’ve heard the Council’s Director for Children and Schools actively asking at public meetings for ideas from the communities. If our suggestions solve her problems, she says, then they will be welcomed.
There are voices in the community that say you can’t trust the Council or its employees. “Given their history of cynical manipulation and utter failure to listen, we must not imagine that some ideal ‘civilised’ debate will necessarily lead to a fair and satisfactory solution.” That’s one comment on this website.
Paul Miller, the leader of the Labour group at the Council and parliamentary candidate in the general election has called for the whole process to be stopped. He has called for a vote at an extraordinary general meeting of the council on April 16th that, if he gets a majority of Councillors’ support, will force the whole process back to the drawing board. www.paulmillerpembrokeshire.com
The approach of the Steering Group of St Davids Schools for the Future, is one of challenging,
but constructive engagement with all the players. Whether you’re from the Council, the Schools, School Governors or the Church, we listen, we question, we check facts, we research, and right now we are putting all our efforts into coming up with a plan that the community can believe in and back.
Thanks to all of you who came to share your views at the St Davids Rugby Club meeting on Thursday March 26th. You can still write to us, email us or comment via the website. Armed with your feedback we are aiming for a draft plan ready for the next Rugby Club meeting on Thursday April 16th. If the community is behind it we will petition and lobby locally and nationally to get support from the decision makers and we will submit our community plan as part of the public consultation process, hopefully with hundreds of your signatures backing it up.
The Council has to consider such a plan, but it’s not just up to them. Because this is about 6th form provision it will also have to go to the Education Minister at the Assembly. If we can come up with a plan that solves the Council’s problems and fits in with national educational agenda, it will be hard for our community voice not to have a significant impact on the future of our schools.
Talk to your friends, tell us what you think, send us your ideas, and we’ll see you for Rugby Club lll, Thursday April 16 6.30-8.00pm.