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Ambitious secondary school plans unveiled for Upper Rhymney Valley

Credit: Caerphilly Council

Caerphilly County Borough Council has announced plans which could transform secondary education in the Upper Rhymney Valley over the next few years.

A special Board of experts have been considering options for the future of single sex education, as well as looking at the impact of surplus places on the current school configuration in the area.

Caerphilly is the only council area in Wales to still operate single sex comprehensive schools – one at Lewis Girls School in Ystrad Mynach and the other at Lewis School Pengam.

The Board agreed to explore ways in which families can be brought together and re-united and avoid the division that some experience when, due to the current arrangement of schools, children from the same family are split apart at age 11.

Lewis Girls School and Lewis School Pengam share the same catchment areas, with many families having children at both schools. The surplus places at both schools are also a key consideration, with 38.8% surplus places at Lewis Girls and 41.84% at Lewis School Pengam.

As a result, the Board has proposed moving away from single sex provision to co-education in the Upper Rhymney Valley. This would involve locating pupils from both sites to Lewis School Pengam, while retaining the Lewis Girls School site to manage the transition over a number of years.

The proposal will now go through the council’s relevant decision-making process and, if agreed, the matter would then be subject to formal consultation.

When considering current and projected demographics and the variable quality of the secondary school buildings, the Board felt it would seem appropriate to reduce the number of secondary schools in the Upper Rhymney Valley (Lewis Girls, Lewis School Pengam, Idris Davies School and Heolddu Comprehensive) from four to three and consider the possibility of a new build in this revised configuration.

Subject to the necessary council agreement and Business Case approval by Welsh Government, the council plans to formally consult on developing a new secondary school on land adjacent to the existing Heolddu School in Bargoed. The proposals would also include upgrading the existing Leisure Facilities to serve the school and the surrounding community.

“These are an exciting set of proposals which could deliver significant benefits for our pupils and the wider community across the Upper Rhymney Valley,” said Cllr Carol Andrews, CCBC Cabinet Member for Education. “We are still in the early stages and all stakeholders will get the chance to have their say as we move through the decision-making process. We will keep everyone updated over the coming months as we take these ambitious proposals forward.”