HUNDREDS of parents from two Torfaen schools which are set to merge next year voted in unanimous agreement at a public meeting on Wednesday for the merger to go ahead.
Despite numerous concerns over location, buses, disruption, temporary classrooms, education standards, the cost and the time frame, a hush fell over 300 people gathered at Fairwater High School when chairman of governors, Rosemarie Seabourne, asked if anyone opposed the principle of a merger between Fairwater High and Llantarnam School.
Although the meeting was less heated than one at Llantarnam on Tuesday night, many parents were critical of the current proposals and of Torfaen council officers for dragging the county’s education department into special measures.
One parent described the area as “the poor relation” compared to Croesyceiliog which could get a new £36 million school, and many others said they were worried about their children learning on a building site. The public meeting was the third in a series, having already heard from Llantarnam and Croesyceiliog parents.
Tuesday’s meeting at Llantarnam, attended by more than 750 people, lasted for more than three hours and heard strong opposition from parents.
To tackle surplus places, which are predicted to reach more than 50 per cent by 2018, Fairwater would be given an initial £6 million facelift and would reopen as a new 11-18 school with pupils from Llantarnam in September 2015, before a further £10 million would be pumped in by the year 2025.
Llantarnam School would close, a primary school would be built on site and excess land sold off.
Croesyceiliog, Llantarnam and Fairwater secondary schools are all classed as “majorly deteriorating” and have combined maintenance backlogs of £6,599,197.
The current proposals would save the council £698,000 a year.
Chief executive of Torfaen council Alison Ward admitted they do not have the finances to build two new schools at the same time, while head of access and engagement John Tushingham stressed that they would like to get on site before 2015 to start work, but said the time frame was not fixed and would be a matter for Torfaen’s cabinet members to decide upon.
The future of sixth form provision at Fairwater is not clear from the proposals, as although the new school would initially be for 11 to 18-year-olds, this could change at a later date.
To have your say on the plans before March 31, write to the Interim Head of Education Services (FAO Mark Horton) c/o Torfaen County Borough Council, Civic Centre, Pontypool, Torfaen, NP4 6YB, or email email@example.com