A PLANNED shake-up of two struggling secondary schools in Wrexham has been slammed as a “kneejerk reaction” by a community leader.
But members of Wrexham Council’s executive board voted yesterday to go out to consultation on options to improve both Ysgol Clywedog and Rhosnesni High School.
The move comes after both schools were placed into special measures by Welsh education watchdog Estyn earlier this year.
The three options being considered are:
l Supporting and challenging both schools to improve while remaining in their current form.
l Creating a through-school for three to 16-year-olds at either or both schools or
l Combining them into a single through school for three to 16-year-olds with different phases of education on different sites.
The executive board approved the recommendations to put the options out to consultation with local people by seven votes with two absentions and one against.
The consultation has now started and people will have until mid-February to put across their views.
A preferred option will be identified and brought back to executive board in March.
If the preferred option includes significant changes to the ways in which either school operates, a further, detailed, public consultation will take place.
However, Offa councillor Alun Jenkins described the proposals as “a kneejerk reaction” and “too radical”.
Introducing the report Cllr Michael Williams, lead member for children’s services and education, said: “I don’t want to dwell on the problems Ysgol Clywedog and Ysgol Rhosnesni are experiencing at the moment.
“The Estyn report pointed out a number of inadequacies at the schools, not least of which is the governors not sufficiently challenging the management.
“While some progress has been made, the pace didn’t satisfy Estyn, hence they remain in special measures.
“This can take up to two years and ultimately if those measures are not met, a report can be submitted to motion and recommend that both schools are closed – and that is the last thing we want.”
As a result of the slow progress, the council’s head of lifelong learning John Bradbury has written to Huw Lewis AM, Minster for Education and Skills, to request that both schools’ governing bodies are replaced with interim executive boards.
They would consist of council officers, human resources workers and education experts and could remain in place for up to 12 months.
But during a fraught debate, Cllr Phil Wynn, who sits on the board of governors at Ysgol Clywedog, accused the council of failing to support the school.
“There is a bigger problem going on within the borough that this report does not acknowledge,” he said.
“There is no quick fix in this be cause if there was we would’ve done it by now. I hope through schools are as good as they say on the box.
“I feel we could have received a lot more support and direction from the local authority.”
Council leader Neil Rogers challenged Cllr Wynn to substantiate his claims, which were countered by Cllr Williams who highlighted a number of financial payments made to the school in a bid to improve performance, as well as regular visits from council staff.
However Cllr Rodney Skelland said: “It’s not about putting in money, it’s about having good governors, good headteachers and enthusiastic staff. If you don’t have that, then it’s doomed to failure.”
And Cllr Carol O’Toole said the report had come as a surprise to councillors. She said: “I think we are all aware of the two schools mentioned in the report before us today, but I had no knowledge of this report coming.
“I do fear this is a hugely significant and important report with a lot of widereaching consequences for people in the borough.”
She asked for the report to be deferred for more information to be provided and for more time to be allowed for consultation.
And Cllr David Kelly questioned why the local authority was only considering two town centre schools.
He said: “What will happen to the children outside of the town centre who will feel disenfranchised?”
In defence of the proposals Cllr Williams said: “Sometimes radical measures are needed to improve a school’s performance.”
He was supported by the council’s deputy leader Mark Pritchard, who said: “We certainly can’t keep it as it is, the status quo.
“We all have a duty to make sure that every child in Wrexham has a first class education.
“How bad does it have to get before we make a decision on a way forward?”