Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Address to Wrecsam Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee.

Below is an address by Eleri Vaughan Roberts to Wrecsam Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee regarding Admission Policy to Welsh Medium Education Schools.

Dear Committee,

On reading the report it is clear to see that the evidence and figures presented have been carefully placed and presented so to reflect well on the education department however there is a lot of vital information that is missing from the report, data that has been presented in a misleading manner and there is no real depth in the reports' response to data findings.

Whilst we as parents and supporters of accessible Welsh Medium Education are eager to support any gesture by the Authority to look at provision and address unmet demands for accessible provision county-wide we cannot help but feel frustrated at the Education departments firm stance of 'there are enough places available within the Borough, end of discussion,' and the general disdain at our eagerness to be involved with any consultation.

The report recognises that the Council should be ensuring that ' Welsh language and culture is promoted and supported.' Education is key in achieving these goals, the reality though, unfortunately, is that accessing WM education is a postcode lottery and not accessible for all and the Authority are currently failing many more families than available data can demonstrate, in accessing WME.

I would also like to take issue with the manner in which the report takes comfort in the knowledge that its Admissions Policy is akin with other L.A's. The population and geographical position of WCBC is very different to Denbighshire, Gwynedd and Conwy therefore the Authority are mistaken to commend themselves on having similar policies. Those Authorities have far more WM school and within reasonable distances. Whilst a 4 mile journey to school in Rural Denbighshire might take max 10 minutes, in Wrexham Town Centre it can easily take in excess of 40 minutes. This was the case for myself travelling from Summerhill to Ysgol Bodhyfryd and the reason for removing our daughter Erin from the school. Whilst comparing policies with other Counties is good practice, evaluating whether the policy best serves the Borough should be the priority. Whilst the policy may best serve the English medium schools I do not agree that it a fair method of distributing provision within WM schools.

So much vital data and statistics are missing from the report.

No statistics were given to demonstrate the following:

* number of applicants refused WM 1st/2nd choice who then opted for EM. Geographical position of these applicants.

*number of applicants who applied before the deadline who were refused 1st and 2nd WM choices.

*no data on how the steady increase in admissions at Primary level will affect Ysgol Morgan Llwyd

.*no data on projected population growth and its effect on school provisions.

* the report should include an analysis of why there is a growing demand for WM and should demonstrate evidence on whether or not it is considered that the demand will continue to grow and at what kind of rate.

*no data given on births registered within the Borough 2013-2015 compared with previous years?

*no data given on those registered as attending the Cylch Meithrin provision within the County.

*no data on the projected cost to the Authority to transport pupils to schools because their first choice was unavailable.

*no data to represent the number children who are missing out on a healthier lifestyle of walking to school because the school within a safe walking route is oversubscribed.

The report concedes that the issues relating to WME are not new issues. In fact it is easy to look back at previous reports from several years back all relaying the same information. Since those reports Ysgol Bro Alun has been built, however we are still no closer to providing enough spaces and a fair distribution of provision. The report does not investigate any new options that could provide a solution.

No recommendations are given within the report on how to tackle the problem of families having siblings at different schools. This issue has so many implications, the greatest being the safeguarding of the child yet there are no answers on how this should be addressed.

According to the report the towns' WM schools incl Bro Alun have all admitted max numbers with two taking extra pupils. Does this not demonstrate the need to increase provision?

Is the increase in provision at Bodhyfryd to 60 a permanent fixture? The admission figures relating to Ysgol Plas Coch are also misleading. Admission figures for Ysgol Plas Coch have been reduced in recent years and despite plans for an extension there are no plans for increasing the provision.

A survey is currently being conducted by FIS asking questions about school choices. Whilst this could be viewed as being a positive step, we would like to know how do Authority propose to use this data? How do they propose to ensure that enough data is collected to ensure that the data is viable for use to make decisions? When evidence from a similar survey was put to the Lead Member at an Executive Board Meeting before the Summer, Cllr Williams branded the data as unreliable since only a small percentage of the Borough's population had responded. Will this Survey also result in being a pointless exercise?

Looking ahead, we must also look at the bigger picture. Much has been said recently about the cost implications of applying the new standards set by the Welsh Commissioner however if Wrexham Council employed a bilingual workforce then the impact of such standards would be minimal. If the Authority invests in providing a healthy, accessible and successful Welsh Medium Education structure then in turn it is potentially investing in a workforce that could contribute back in the future, future bilingual civil servants who will be committed to the ethos of promoting and supporting Welsh Language and culture.

There are no proactive recommendations within this report. It has not looked at short term and long term possibilities but serves only to try to justify why the admissions policy is proximity based. The greater detail of addressing failures and moving on to provide enough provision and to plan a fair distribution doesn't feature in this report however I believe that the Scrutiny Committee need these details along with all the other data that was not given in order to evaluate the true role of the admissions policy in relation to WM education.

Many Thanks

Eleri Roberts

Some excellent points made to a bland, boring and uninformative report...Diolch i Leri am baratoi a diolch i Judith am gyflwyno.

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