Torfaen council gives school closure plan go-ahead

South Wales Argus: CLOSURE CONSULTATION: Pontymoile Primary School CLOSURE CONSULTATION: Pontymoile Primary School

THREE Torfaen Schools could close next year as part of a £257.6 million transformation of the borough's schools.

Cabinet members today approved proposals to formally consult on plans to shut Two Locks Nursery School and Kemys Fawr Infants School in Sebastopol, and Pontymoile Primary School in Pontypool to reduce surplus places.

There is also a proposal to close Pontymoile's autistic special needs resource base and move pupils to Nant Celyn Primary in Cwmbran.

Pupils from Two Locks Nursery School would also move to Nant Celyn Primary School while Pontymoile pupils would be split between George Street Primary and New Inn Primary.

Children at Kemys Fawr Infants School would move to Griffithstown Primary.

Head of access, engagement and performance for Torfaen John Tushingham said: "We are not asking for permission to close the schools today but permission to consult on the closures.

"It's a bit like a game of chess as the moves we make now will impact on the future.

"But it's part of the process, sometimes you have to do these things to achieve a better outcome in the end."

The council's executive member for children and young people, Councillor Mary Barnett said: "It's never easy to put forward proposals to discontinue schools.

"We have a good reputation for consulting and we have already held exhibitions, but these would now be formal consultations.

"We will have meetings with staff, parents, governors and the public and ensure a full and detailed report is given back.

"The proposals for discontinuation are not a reflection on services provided by the schools and children's education will continue to be a high standard."

Cllr Anthony Hunt added: "I hope the concerns from parents are listened to and addressed during the consultation."

The plans are the first step in the council's multi-million 21st Century Schools programme and would see pupils starting at their new schools from September 1 next year.

The approved proposals will now be open to a six-week consultation process starting next month.

The closures are not reliant on grant funding.

Torfaen council came up with the proposals after the Welsh Government requested all councils submit plans in 2010 to transform education and tackle issues of ageing school buildings and surplus places.

It needs to reduce surplus places in primary schools to below ten per cent and surplus places in secondary schools to below 15 per cent by 2015.

Panel Two Locks currently has 29 surplus seats - a quarter of all places - while Kemys Fawr has 47 across the whole school - 30 empty in the primary and 17 in the nursery representing 32 per cent and 47 per cent respectively.

There are 114 surplus places at Pontymoile Primary - 49 per cent of the total - not including the special needs unit.

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