Thursday, 18 June 2015

Parents turn the pressure up on Wrecsam Council.

At today's Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, Eleri Vaughan Roberts one of the parents who cannot get her child into Ysgol Bro Alun despite living less than a mile away was invited to address the members of the Committee on behalf of her family and others affected:

We have many concerns relating to Welsh-medium provisions in Wrexham and feel the Authority should be carefully considering the following points:

1. Reviewing the admission policy to Welsh medium schools:

Changing the admission policy to consider more than proximity alone, reinstating the sibling rule along with something that proves your commitment to the language (in the same way as faith schools). Some families applied for Welsh-medium education but did not receive a place within a reasonable locality and therefore, due to work commitments had to settle for an English medium setting. Four families from the Rossett area did not even bother applying for a place in a Welsh medium setting, knowing they would never gain a place in a school within a reasonable distance because the proximity rule would fail them. There is nothing to stop the Authority from changing the admissions policy since it is one set by the Authority itself and not by the National Assembly.

2. Splitting a class:

Ysgol Bro Alun is the only Welsh medium school that hasn't exceeded their 30 child intake by splitting a class. There are ample empty classrooms in the school, and 19 families were refused a place. Bodhyfryd increased their capacity in order to accomodate those in a similar situation to myself. I'm sure it would be wiser to accomodate us within our locality in Bro Alun as an interim measure before the proposed extension to Plas Coch goes ahead.

3. Rising population:

Wrexham is an ever growing County with several large planning applications having had the green light within the catchment area for Bro Alun.
Wrexham's projected population growth ranks as the second highest in Wales with a continuous upward trend predicted from 2011-2036. With this in mind the Authority needs to act now in collating evidence-based research to predict the demand for Welsh medium provision and act upon the information before the situation escalates.

4. Strengthening ties with Welsh medium pre-school providers.

Mudiad Meithrin and Twf could give strong indications on the current trends and demand for Welsh medium education. Bro Alun has two feeder Welsh medium playgroups- one at the school itself and one in Summerhill. Every child attending Summerhill and several attending Cylch Bro Alun failed to gain a place despite living within the catchment area.

5. Responding efficiently to a rising demand:

According to a recent survey conducted by the Authority 21% of parents would like the option of sending their children to a Welsh medium school however the Authority can only cater for 11%. Shockingly therefore, the Authority is only providing for around 50% of those who would choose Welsh Medium education if it were accessible, this despite the recent rise in provision by 51%.

Of the 52 who applied for a place at Bro Alun, 17 had registered with Welsh medium pre-school provision, however at least eight of these did not secure a place at the school despite living within the catchment area. Almost 50% of those who had invested in Welsh medium pre school provisions failed by the Authority.

6. Accessibility:

There are many families having to opt out of choosing Welsh medium education. Most because they can't gain a place in a school within a reasonable distance since they will never gain a place in their closest schools, Bro Alun and Plas Coch because of the proximity rule. This is a particularly recurring theme amongst families from the Rossett-Gresford-Borras areas.
Several families have a projected journey of over 4000 extra miles per annum due to the fact that they could not secure a place in the Welsh medium schools in their catchment area. I live 0.9 miles from Bro Alun and 2 miles from Plas Coch but will have to pass both to reach Bodhyfryd at the other side of town, potentially taking up to half an hour one way in the rush hour traffic.

7. Changing Language Categorisation of Schools:

Welsh Government gave local authorities delegated powers to change the language categorisation of schools. Wrexham is one of the only authorities not to use this however consideration should be given as to whether or not changing some schools in localities such as Gresford to category 2 schools in order to take pressure off the category 1 schools.

I would like to request that the Education Scrutiny Committee conduct a review of the allocations policy and review short and long term decisions on how the Authority plan to deal with a growing demand in order to avoid a similar situation next year and in years to come.

The Committee agreed to investigate the issues and complaints. This is the first time that members of the public have come to scrutiny directly with a request that the committee look at certain issues. Hopefully many more will now follow suit.

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