Minister to decide as Wrexham Council backs high school sixth forms

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

WREXHAM Council is backing the retention of sixth forms at high schools in Ruabon and Penley.

But the final decision on whether to keep them intact still rests with Wales’ education ministers.

The council must put forward its preferred option for streamlining post-16 education in Wrexham to the Assembly Government before the end of the year.

Officers have come up with four options and the one they recommended was to scrap the sixth forms at Ysgol Rhiwabon and the Maelor in Penley, to replace them with a full tertiary college based at Yale College.

But at its meeting last week the children and young people’s scrutiny committee rejected this plan and instead voted for an option calling for greater collaboration between all Wrexham’s school sixth forms.

And last night members of the executive board backed the same option.

The decision came at the end of more than an hour of impassioned argument, mainly in favour of retaining the two threatened sixth forms.

About 40 parents were at the Guildhall to hear the debate.

Chairs of governors were also allowed to speak.

Samantha Gaitch, of the Maelor, said: “Many parents choose to send their children to our school because of its sixth form – I know because I am one of them.”

Penri Williams, of Ysgol Rhiwabon, said: “The loss of our sixth form could prove disastrous.

“Staff would be demoralised by the prospect of losing their jobs and younger children would lose their role models.”

Cllr Rodney Skelland, Conservative member for Bronington, who is a governor at the Maelor, said if the sixth form closed pupils from the local area would not want to make the 17-mile trip to Yale College and would opt instead to attend schools just over the border in England, such as at Malpas and Ellesmere, which were much nearer.

He added: “This would have a devastating affect on Penley.”

Backing the retention of the sixth form at Ysgol Rhiwabon, Cllr David Bithell, independent member for Johnstown, said: “Both my daughters went to the sixth form there and then on to university. It is a question of us doing what is right for the people of Ruabon.”

And Cllr Neil Rogers, Labour member for Gwenfro, said: “If it ain’t broke why try to fix it. It’s a question of retaining what we have got and building on it.”

Maesydre Liberal Democrat member, Cllr Carole O’Toole, who is chairman of Yale College, supported the officers’ recommendation for full tertiary provision.

She said: “I believe on the basis of the facts and the evidence that this model is the best way forward.

“Across Wales tertiary provision has been highly successful and produced some excellent results.

“It is hard fact and not emotion that should determine this debate.”

But board members voted 5-2 in favour of retaining the two sixth forms and looking at closer sixth form collaboration.

The education minister is due to make a final decision in January.

Both sets of supporters from Penley and Ruabon welcomed the decision but
vowed to battle on as they realised the fight was not yet over.

See full story in the Leader

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