PLANNING permission is being sought for a major expansion of a junior school site in Newport, which will allow the physical completion of a merger with the neighbouring infants school.

A proposal by Newport council to merge Gaer infants and junior schools was approved last autumn by minister for education and skills Huw Lewis, despite a vigorous campaign of opposition by parents of children at both sites.

Now the city council is proposing to build an early years unit, comprising two Year One classes, two reception classes, and a nursery class, with its own secure hard play and landscaped areas.

The planning application, on Newport council’s website, shows the new block will be built on the school field side of the existing junior school site on Gaer Road.

It will have separate entrances and play areas for nursery, reception and Year One children, and will sit close to the existing junior school buildings.

The new single site school will have capacity for 420 children. The eventual aim is to turn the infants school site, off Melfort Road, which until this term hosted close to 150 pupils, into an autism unit.

Welsh Government is looking to reduce surplus places to around 10 per cent Wales-wide, and the infants school was deemed to have 27 per cent surplus places, and the junior school 34 per cent.

Last year’s consultation by Newport council received 465 letters of objection, including 107 handwritten letters and 358 photocopied ones, while more than 100 protesters gathered to voice their concerns outside the junior school.

At the end of this term both head teachers from the infants and the junior schools retired.

John Webb led Gaer Junior School for almost 30 years and said he had a “huge amount of confidence” in the merger despite protests, adding that the school’s future looks bright under the new head teacher, Alex Smith, who joins the school from Langstone Primary School.

After 20 years, head teacher Marilyn Biddle retired from the infants school along with colleagues, office manager Geraldine Granger, caretaker Roger Hollyoaks and foundation years classroom assistant Lesley Parratt.