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Public consultation event on the proposed new 3-19 Special School

Rhondda Cynon Taf residents are invited to attend an in-person event on August 22 as part of a wider consultation for the proposed new 3-19 Special School. The event will be hosted by Council officers to provide more information about the proposals.

The Council is proposing to create a new special school for Rhondda Cynon Taf, to respond to the current and projected capacity pressures across its special schools. In June 2023, Cabinet agreed for the Council to begin the required consultation with key stakeholders – and for all feedback to then be collated and presented to Members for consideration at a future meeting.

The public consultation is now underway, and will remain open until 5pm on Friday, September 15. Residents can view the key consultation documents, find out more about the proposal, and have their say via an online survey.

As part of the consultation, an in-person event has been arranged to allow members of the public to discuss the proposal with officers from the Education and Inclusion team – and to formally give their feedback in the consultation.

The event will be held at The Pavilions in Clydach Vale, Tonypandy, (CF40 2XX) on Tuesday, August 22. Everyone is welcome to ‘drop-in’ at any time between 3pm and 6.30pm, when officers will welcome you at the Council Chamber. No prior booking is required to attend the event.

The consultation will also provide residents with an opportunity to find out more and have their say on proposed catchment changes for Park Lane Special School, Ysgol Hen Felin and Ysgol Ty Coch. These changes could be introduced once the proposed new 3-19 special school is brought into use.

Councillor Rhys Lewis, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Youth Participation and the Welsh Language, said: “I’d like to thank those residents and organisations that have already taken part in the consultation for our proposed new 3-19 Special School for Rhondda Cynon Taf. There is still plenty of time and opportunity to find out more and have your say, with our engagement exercise remaining open until September 15.

“Cabinet has considered several officer reports in recent months, which highlight the pressures that our existing special schools are facing as learner numbers grow and young people’s needs become more complex. Officers reported in June that learner numbers had grown by 94 since 2021, and all options to expand the existing schools have been explored and undertaken. A thorough process has been undertaken to assess how best to respond – and the clear, most-favourable option is to invest in a new school.

“The estimated investment of the proposed new school is £53.3m, to be jointly funded by the Council and Welsh Government via its Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme. The school will provide a first-class environment that our young people deserve – including enhanced access to specialist facilities, equipment and resources. The investment would be able to meet all needs, and reduce the need for Out of County placements for learners.

“Members of the public can find out more about the proposals on the Council’s website, and everyone is also invited to the public event taking place in Clydach Vale on August 22. You will be able to speak directly with officers about any aspect of the proposals, and also formally have your say in the consultation. Events like these have proven very popular and effective for other school developments, and I’d urge interested residents to go along.”

The new school will ensure the Council can deliver its obligations under the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act. The Council will receive a 75% contribution towards the total project costs within Band B of Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.

The latest data-gathering analysis of the existing Special Schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf took place in September 2022. It showed an increased number of learners with complex needs who require support and higher staffing ratios. This was especially the case at Ysgol Hen Felin and Ysgol Ty Coch.

The new school’s location has been thoroughly considered via a site appraisal process, and the preferred option is The Pavilions site in Clydach Vale. It was the most suitable site and met all required criteria – as it provides an adequate site area, has satisfactory access and is a viable development opportunity.

In May 2023, Cabinet considered a draft strategy that set out proposals for the future makeup of the Council’s office space. Under this strategy, The Pavilions site would be vacated and become available for development.