HUNDREDS of parents and residents turned out to express their anger at a heated meeting over plans to close Llantarnam School.
A crowd of around 750 people went to the meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the proposals to close both Llantarnam School and Fairwater High School, with plans to invest £6 million from Torfaen’s 21st Century Schools Programme to refurbish the current Fairwater site.
Parents were angered at the plans to use the Fairwater site for the new school as opposed to the Llantarnam school site, which has the larger capacity of 1,475 pupils compared with 1,312 at Fairwater.
The council proposes the Fairwater site to be the most suitable due to its more central location and hopes the new school will be open in September 2015.
Faye Brand, 36, a mother of two pupils in Year 9 and 10 at Llantarnam School, said: “We understand the two schools have to merge, we understand it’s not cost effective at the moment. Our main concern is they can’t say for certain our children won’t be taught in demountables.”
Torfaen council said closing Fairwater and Llantarnam schools and creating a single secondary school should help tackle the issue of surplus places for both schools, in line with the Welsh Government target of no more than 15 per cent surplus places.
John Tushingham, Torfaen’s head of access, engagement and performance, said: “[The Llantarnam site] is not allocated as part of the LDP (Local Development Plan) for any specific purpose. We can’t say that at some point in the future it won’t be sold. Our proposed site (Fairwater) is the preferred site as it’s more central to the planned population. Children will need to travel shorter distances, that is the reason, not because this site has greater value.”
The council proposes a £36 million new-build for Croesyceiliog School which it says is because the current building has low beams and is in greater need of refurbishment than the building at Fairwater School.
Donna Hallows, a parent of pupils in Year 8 and in Year 10, said: “This is the right site for the new school. There are plans to build a brand new primary school on this land. You need to look to the future, we could have a super school here from three to 19-year-olds. The council is too short sighted, this is all down to money.”
John Turner, chairman of governors at Llantarnam, said: “I think it is unfair for Croesyceiliog to receive £36 million, we should also be offered a new building for Llantarnam and Fairwater.”
There would also be a review of the Fairwater, Llantarnam and Croesyceiliog catchment areas. A decision on sixth form provision has not yet been decided.
Ms Brand said around 50 pupils at Llantarnam School have already left the school due to proposals. Pupils who have already chosen their options for GCSE’s voiced their anger at the disruption the proposed plans and their inability to choose their preferred subjects due to shrinking classrooms.
Jodie Burns, a Year 9 pupil, said: “This decision is going to affect our education, our choices for GCSE and what we do in the future.”