A NEW ‘state-of-the-art’ single school in the south of Torfaen could provide a ‘better option’ than new facilities in Croesyceiliog and Fairwater, it has been suggested by an overview and scrutiny committee of Torfaen council.

At a special meeting of the Learning Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee last week concern was voiced over the strategic direction of the 21st Century Schools Programme for the area, ahead of a cabinet decision on the issue next week.

It follows the end of a consultation process over the proposal to close Fairwater and Llantarnam secondary schools and progress a new school on the current Fairwater site with a £6 million investment, to remove surplus places.

The council is also proposing a £36 million new-build for Croesyceiliog School, said to be in greater need of refurbishment than the building at Fairwater School.

But committee member, Councillor Pamela Cameron said: “A single school would arguably offer a better decision. The worry is the local authority is missing an opportunity to create a really outstanding school, and I believe divisions will occur if the proposals progress as is.”

Ron Marchant, of the Torfaen Association of School Governors, added: “The original criteria of the 21st Century Schools Programme may not be appropriate any longer. Perhaps it should be reconsidered.”

Members questioned the council’s head of access, engagement and performance, John Tushingham, on several topics before considering whether the recommendations for removing surplus places are in line with the 21st Century Schools Programme investment criteria, if the consultation was adequate, and to what extent, if any, the current proposal should be amended in light of consultation responses.

They were told, in a report, that significant interest had been voiced by respondents and stakeholders on the matter. Key topics from the consultation process included the proposed catchment areas, potential social and economic divisions in Cwmbran, the emergence of a two-tier education system in the area, and provision of community facilities.

A report will be submitted to cabinet on the consultation responses, along with the committee’s comments and suggestions.