Special School proposals for Rhondda Cynon Taf fully-agreed
Cabinet Members have agreed to implement the important proposals for the Council to build a state-of-the-art new Special School for Rhondda Cynon Taf by 2026 – which will deliver first-class facilities and meet all pupils’ needs.
At their meeting in October 2023, Cabinet agreed to progress the exciting proposals having considered the positive feedback received in a public consultation exercise. Statutory Notices to open a new 3-19 special school, and introduce catchment areas for all special schools in Rhondda Cynon Taf, were published on November 10, triggering a 28-day period for objections.
The Council has proposed the investment in response to the current and projected capacity pressures across its special schools. Previous reports to Cabinet have demonstrated the continuing trend of growing learner numbers, while highlighting that young people’s needs are becoming more complex.
All options to expand the existing schools (Maesgwyn Special School, Park Lane Special School, Ysgol Hen Felin and Ysgol Ty Coch) have been undertaken. The only feasible alternative to increase capacity, and to ensure the Council can deliver its obligations under the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act, is to create a new school.
A report to Cabinet on Wednesday, January 24, outlined that no objections or comments were received during the statutory notice period, and Members therefore agreed with officer recommendations to approve the proposal.
The Council has previously received a funding agreement in principle to jointly deliver the scheme with Welsh Government, with a 75% contribution towards total project costs via the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.
Cabinet Member for Education, Youth Participation and the Welsh Language, said:
“I’m very pleased that Cabinet has agreed the proposed new Special School for Rhondda Cynon Taf, to help the Council meet its statutory duty to pupils with Additional Learning Needs. This approval is subject to securing funding for the project, for which there is an agreement in principle with Welsh Government.
“Officers have outlined that there are considerable capacity pressures facing our existing special schools and, in several previous reports to Cabinet, demonstrated that these pressures are expected to grow. This is due to high demand for school places and the increasingly-complex needs of learners. A thorough process has been undertaken to determine how best to respond to this trend, and clearly the most favourable option is to invest in a new school.
“The recent public and stakeholder consultation exercise gave residents the opportunity to find out more about the proposed new school, and the planned introduction of catchment changes across all of our special schools. Overall, there was clearly a positive response.
“We have an excellent track record of successfully delivering new schools through the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, and the new special school will be a modern facility that meets all needs and includes enhanced access to specialist facilities, equipment and resources. The investment will also mitigate the cost of out-of-county and independent placements, which would have arisen if our schools reached full capacity.
“Wednesday’s decision by Cabinet has now concluded the Council’s decision-making process on this matter. Officers will further progress the project, and will provide updates to residents across all significant future landmarks towards the delivery of the County Borough’s new special school in 2026.”
The consultation process for the new school has been undertaken under the arrangements of the School Organisation Code.