Council 'vindicated' by publication of asbestos survey (18 March 2013)A long-awaited management survey highlighting the extent of the asbestos contamination at Cwmcarn High School has been released by the school leadership.
An options appraisal, undertaken by asbestos consultants Ensafe, details the major work required to address the problem at the site before pupils and staff can return to a safe environment.
Cllr Rhianon Passmore, CCBC Cabinet Member for Education, said "This report vindicates the difficult but correct decision we took back in October and I hope that the community will recognise we had no option but to temporarily close the school in the best interests of pupils and staff."
At the time the school closed, the extent of asbestos contamination affecting the whole site was not known and further investigations were required. "It is regrettable that the council were not permitted to undertake those investigations at the time, however we welcome the outcome of the management survey which re-enforces the safety concerns which the council have consistently held," said Cllr. Passmore.
"The report clearly states that there is a comprehensive programme of work needed to remove the asbestos and reinstate the site so that it is safe for reoccupation. A figure of around £1.5 million has been quoted for this work, but we suspect the true amount could be much more once the costs have been fully analysed."
"This report confirms there is a major asbestos problem at Cwmcarn which needs a considerable amount of time, money and effort to put right."
"The health and wellbeing of the school community has always been paramount and I am confident that we acted properly, swiftly and decisively to protect the pupils and staff at Cwmcarn High School."
The authority is now considering the report and members will be asked to agree a way forward in the near future.
Setting the record straight on Cwmcarn (8 March 2013)
Cllr Rhianon Passmore, CCBC Cabinet Member for Education is keen to update parents, pupils and staff at Cwmcarn High School about the latest position regarding asbestos.
"I continue to receive a number of questions and concerns from parents about the issues at Cwmcarn. There is clearly a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about the current situation and this is causing distress to the whole school community.
All concerned will be aware that there have been a number of reports and analysis carried out to date and we are currently awaiting the outcome of a new management survey at the school which will give us options for the future of the site.
This survey has been commissioned by the school via Ensafe and surveying works at the school site were completed on 22nd February. Following a request for a progress update the Council has been informed by the school that Ensafe are in the process of drafting the report and it will be issued as soon as possible.
There is also a lot of misinformation circulating in the community linking the Cwmcarn situation to the wider 21st Century Schools programme. I must stress that these are completely separate issues. The 21st Century Schools programme is a stand-alone programme involving all schools and is totally unconnected to the problems at Cwmcarn.
There is no question about whether asbestos is present at the site. It is a known fact that there are large quantities of asbestos material throughout the building, but of most concern to us is the significant amount of asbestos debris present in the ceiling and roof voids as well as the heater cabinets.
A senior union representative has stated that they would be unwilling for their members to return to work at the building without the removal of the asbestos risk.
Our priority is also the safety, health and well-being of the pupils and staff and we make no apology for our swift and decisive decision to temporarily close the school site in light of the information that was presented to us back in October.
In order to inform and update all interested parties the council has produced question and answers> which will clearly explain the situation to date.
Cwmcarn High School Update (15 February 2013)
Residents will be aware of the recent media coverage following the publication of a new report into asbestos at Cwmcarn High School. The coverage gives the impression that the asbestos risk at the school is lower than was first thought.
The Council is keen to resolve this issue as a matter of urgency, but we want to ensure that parents and staff are fully aware of all the facts relating to the ongoing issues at the Cwmcarn site.
The building is a pre-1960s construction and therefore contains large amounts of asbestos material. Also, the current general condition of the school is very poor (the school has a 'D Rating' according to the Welsh Government's School Condition Survey in 2010 and is in the worst condition of all schools in the county borough), so alongside the ongoing asbestos problems, there is also a considerable repair and maintenance backlog which needs to be addressed at the site.
With regard to the surveys that have been undertaken to date, it is important to note that there is inconsistency in the methodology used by the asbestos specialists involved in commissioning these reports. This has resulted in differing opinions about the levels of risk at the school. Despite this, the fact remains that there are large quantities of asbestos throughout the school building, including significant amounts of asbestos debris in the ceiling and roof voids as well as the heater cabinets.
Residents will recall that the findings of the original report by Santia resulted in the closure of the school due to an elevated risk posed by extensive asbestos debris within the school structure.
Separate to the ongoing HSE investigation into asbestos management at the school, a further report has been undertaken by HSL on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive.
The Council's position on this matter has been clear throughout. Our priority is the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the school and any increased risk is a matter for concern and is taken very seriously. Our decisive steps to close the school on an interim basis for further investigation to be undertaken back in October demonstrated our commitment to protect the whole school community.
In order to help clarify matters and explain the next steps, here is an outline of the current position:
- Santia Report – This was commissioned by the Council last year and led to the closure of the school. The findings were reported to Council where is was noted that the Health and Safety Executive agreed the Authority made the right decision in closing the school in light of the evidence.
- Ensafe Report – This was commissioned by the school leadership, but has not been released to date as the Council has concerns about its accuracy.
- HSL Report – This latest report into airborne fibres alone was commissioned by the Health and Safety Executive and undertaken by their agency, the Health and Safety Laboratory. The limited scope of this report only looked at airborne asbestos fibres after the school was closed.
- In order to move forward, the Council continues to work with the school leadership and is providing funding to the school for a new management survey, which will include an options appraisal for the future of the site. It is anticipated that this will be completed within the next few weeks.
- The Council has employed an independent expert who will now give an impartial view of all the reports. This will help the Council make decisions in the interest of the whole school community.
Once we have the results of the new management survey, a report will be presented to the Council with options for consideration. No decision about the re-occupation of the Cwmcarn site can be made until this options appraisal is fully considered.
As stated previously, our main priority remains and will continue to be the welfare and education of the children attending school at Cwmcarn and we will continue to work with the school leadership.
We hope residents find this information useful and we will, of course, provide further updates as the situation progresses.
Cwmcarn High School Update (4 February 2013)
Cwmcarn High School and Caerphilly County Borough Council are working together in relation to the current issues at the School site. A further management survey is about to be completed considering all options for the School site. The Council has agreed to reimburse the instruction of the School's asbestos consultant to carry out a management survey, to be completed in the next 3 weeks and to provide an options appraisal for consideration by the School and the Council.
The Head Teacher and Governors of Cwmcarn High School are pleased that the Council are working with them, Gary Thomas commented "We are delighted that the Council are working with Cwmcarn High School to find a positive outcome. We are committed to working with the Council and are agreeing a plan with them for the next steps".
The Council commented "We are hopeful that a suitable solution can be found in respect of the problems at the School site and the Council are anxious to work with the Governors and the Head Teacher on this issue, but the Council's main priority remains and will continue to be the welfare and education of the children attending school at Cwmcarn."
CCBC 'concerned and disappointed' by Cwmcarn High School decision (5 December 2012)
Caerphilly county borough council has expressed its concern and disappointment following a decision by the Governing Body of Cwmcarn High School to take control of the site.
The move, outlined in a letter to the authority today (Wednesday 5th December), means that the governing body will now take full responsibility and liability for the site.
Plans by the council to commission a full and thorough asbestos survey have now been thwarted by the actions of the school Governors.
Caerphilly county borough council was responsible for the survey which highlighted the presence of asbestos at Cwmcarn High School resulting in the school's closure and the temporary relocation to Ebbw Vale last month.
Leader of Council, Cllr Harry Andrews said, "Our main priority has always been the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the school. We took swift and decisive action when the scale of the asbestos problem was identified and we planned to undertake further investigations to discover the full extent of the problem before agreeing a way forward.
"Unfortunately, the Governing Body have now frustrated this process by insisting that they take full responsibility of the site, as is their right as a foundation school, but we wanted to work with them to try and resolve this issue as quickly as possible."
"We will be writing to parents and staff explaining the implications of this decision. Our key responsibility remains the welfare and education of the pupils and we will be closely monitoring the Governor's actions at the school. Parents can rest assured that the council will not allow any pupils to return to a building that poses any health risk to their children."
A separate, independent investigation into asbestos management at the school is being carried out by the Health and Safety Executive and this process will continue.
Cwmcarn High School Update (19 November 2012)
Caerphilly county borough has today (Monday 19th November) released the full technical report outlining the presence of asbestos at Cwmcarn High School.
The investigation was undertaken by a specialist contractor called Santia and the report is a very complex and technical document. The council has agreed to release the information so that parents and staff are in possession of the full facts behind the decision to close the school.
The Santia report will be considered at a meeting of Full Council on Tuesday 20th November at Penallta House Council offices, but the information has also been posted on this website today in advance of the meeting.
"The council wants to be honest, open and transparent in the way we deal with Cwmcarn High School, so we felt it was important that all interested parties had access to the full report," said Leader of Council, Cllr Harry Andrews. "The decision to temporarily close the school was not taken lightly, but the health and safety of pupils and staff is paramount. We are confident that we took the right decision faced with the information that was presented to us on the afternoon of Friday 12th October and we acted swiftly and decisively to protect the school community."
The council has commissioned a full invasive asbestos survey of the site and these investigations are extensive. It is anticipated this will take a month to complete. The Health and Safety Executive's enquiries are also continuing and the council currently awaits their findings.
Special health advice sessions are also being offered to parents this week so that any health concerns can be discussed with professionals from Public Health and the council
Click here to view the Santia report.
Cwmcarn High School Update (5 November 2012)
Today (Monday 5th November) saw pupils and staff from Cwmcarn High School relocate to a temporary site in Ebbw Vale for the rest of the academic year.
Cllr Rhianon Passmore, CCBC cabinet member for education, "It's great to see pupils and staff from Cwmcarn High School back in the classroom today. Our main priority over the past few weeks has been to get the school community back together so that learners could re-commence their studies with minimum disruption. The move to the former Coleg Gwent Campus in Ebbw Vale has been a major logistical challenge, but throughout the process we have worked closely with the school and Coleg Gwent to ensure the transition was as smooth as possible for all concerned. I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts."
Cwmcarn High School Update (31 October 2012)
Preparations are well underway to accommodate the school at the former Ebbw Vale Campus from Monday 5th November.
Works to transfer teaching and learning resources to the new site is in progress this week, as is the transfer of information from the school IT server to retrieve learners' work held electronically within the school.
Letters will be posted to parents/guardians on Thursday this week, outlining travel arrangements for the students to be transported to and from the new school site from Monday.
Cwmcarn High School Update (23 October 2012)
Following the meeting of Full Council on Tuesday evening, Cllr Rhianon Passmore, CCBC cabinet member for education said "We have been working closely with the school and governing body over the past week to enable the pupils and staff to return to the classroom as quickly as possible.
I am pleased to announce that the council has agreed a way forward this evening to accommodate the school at the former Ebbw Vale Campus from Monday 5th November.
We have approved almost £1.5million in funding to support the move and this clearly demonstrates our commitment to resolve this issue and reduce the disruption to the school community.
This addresses the short term needs of the school for the rest of the academic year, but we now need to look to the future and how we resolve the situation in the longer term."
Click here to read a letter to parents from the Head Teacher of Cwmcarn High School .
You can also download the Report to Full Council on the 23rd October.
Cwmcarn High School Update (19 October 2012)
The Governing Body, School Leadership Team and Caerphilly County Borough Council are pleased to announce that Year 10 pupils will be able to return to lessons at Cwmcarn High School on Tuesday 23rd October and should report to the Performing Arts block at 8.30am.
Over 100 pupils from Years 12 and 13 returned to the school today (Friday 19th October) and attended lessons within the Performing Arts block. Year 11 will return on Monday 22nd October and should report to the Performing Arts block at 8.30am.
Normal transport arrangements will operate for these year groups from Monday.
The Governing Body and the council are currently looking at options for the remainder of the academic year.
A series of meetings with parents are planned later next week. Further information about the dates and venues for these meetings will be announced on Monday.
Cwmcarn High School Update (18 October 2012)
Caerphilly County Borough Council has announced that all pupils from Cwmcarn High School will be able to resume their studies on Monday 5th November following the half term break.
Details are currently being considered by the Governing Body and council and further information will follow in due course.
Years 12 and 13 will return to the new block on the Cwmcarn site tomorrow (Friday 19th), with Year 11 following on Monday 22nd October.
We intend to organise a series of meetings with parents next week to provide further update on the situation, including arrangements for pupils on Monday 5th November.
A series of questions and answers relating to the ongoing issues at Cwmcarn High School have been developed and are available by clicking here
Cwmcarn High School Update (17 October 2012)
Plans are now firmly in place to accommodate Years 11, 12 and 13 at the new block on the school site, and a range of other options are being investigated for the other age groups at the school.
A Special Meeting of Council will take place on Tuesday 23rd October. The council and school will continue to work closely to resolve these issues as soon as possible in the best interests of pupils and staff.
A letter will be sent to parents on Thursday 18th October providing the latest update on the situation.
Further updates will be posted on this website.
Cwmcarn High School Update (16 October 2012)
Caerphilly County Borough Council is today finalising arrangements to ensure that pupils at the school are able to continue their studies with as little disruption as possible.
We are delighted to inform parents that Year 12 and 13 will be able to return to the school site on Friday (19th October) and should report to the Performing Arts centre at 8.30am. This newest part of the school (a stand-alone block) is available for use and is separate from the rest of the school buildings. We will also accommodate Year 11 pupils at the site from Monday 22nd October and they should also report to the Performing Arts centre at 8.30am.
The council took the difficult decision to close the school in light of the findings of a structural report and we are not prepared to fully re-open the site until further investigations have taken place to determine the extent of the problem and the work needed to address the situation. A range of options are being investigated for the other age groups and further updates will be posted on the council and school websites.
The council and school will continue to work closely to resolve these issues as soon as possible.
Further updates will be posted on this website.
Cwmcarn High School Update (15 October 2012)
Caerphilly County Borough Council is working with the Public Health service to analyse the findings of the structural report received by the authority on Friday afternoon. It is anticipated that the Public Health professionals will provide their views on the findings within the next 24 hours.
The council is currently working with the school's senior leadership team and governors to explore alternative arrangements for pupils and staff, but this is unlikely to be resolved this week. Every effort is being made to accommodate pupils in years 11, 12 and 13 as a priority.
We appreciate that the situation is inconvenient, but the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff is our main priority.
Further updates will be posted on this website.
Cwmcarn High School – School Closure (12 October 2012)
Due to a structural report which has been received today, the Authority is taking immediate and decisive action to safeguard the health and wellbeing of pupils and staff at the school.
As of today the school building will be closed for further detailed asbestos investigation. Although we appreciate that this action will cause concern and inconvenience to parents, I am sure you will appreciate that the safety of pupils and staff at the school is of paramount importance. The school will be closed until further notice and we will communicate with you any further updates with regard to the investigation and the arrangements for the pupils.
The council's website (www.caerphilly.gov.uk) will be updated with the latest information.