County votes to press on with educational shake-up

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

CONTROVERSIAL proposals for a £100 million overhaul of Flintshire’s schools have moved a step forward.

Under the plans, three schools could close and a ‘super school’ could be created in an attempt to reduce the high number of surplus places.

Yesterday Flintshire Council’s executive committee voted in favour of pushing ahead with the consultation period on its multi-million pound school modernisation programme.

Potential options include merging Argoed High School, Mynydd Isa, with Elfed High School, Buckley, and John Summers High School with Connah’s Quay High School, while creating a ‘super school’ in Holywell.

Firm indications were given at the meeting that public feedback could influence the destiny of schools under threat and that no options were set in stone.

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, executive member for lifelong learning, described the proposed modernisations as an “extremely exciting time” but insisted there would be a proper consultation and no plans would be forced through.

He said: “This is a genuine consultation and all views will be taken into account. I cannot stress that too highly.”

Cllr Steele-Mortimer also revealed how costly the changes could be, anticipating work could cost between £50m and £100m, which he hoped would be covered through funding being obtained.

The costs are likely to include making improvements to school buildings.

Three of the schools most directly affected by the changes are Elfed High School, Buckley, Holywell High School, and John Summers High School, Queensferry as each have more than the recommended maximum of 25 per cent surplus places.

Director of lifelong learning Ian Budd said: “There is no perfect solution in terms of school organisation, but each option is to be considered on its own merits.”

Mr Budd gave assurances that all ideas put forward by members of the community would be considered.

Chief executive Colin Everett said financial support from central government was easier to obtain if surplus targets were met while  modernisation processes were progressing.

The first stage of the consultation period will run until the end of September. It includes meetings with headteachers, governors, students and members of the public.

Findings will be reported back to the executive in October and, if approved, the council will formally propose changes to the schools in November and make a final decision in December.

Any changes are expected to be implemented between 2012 and 2014.

See full story in the Leader

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