Estyn's Response

This report has been prepared by His Majesty’s Inspectors of Education and Training in Wales

Under the terms of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and its associated Code, proposers are required to send consultation documents to Estyn. However, Estyn is not a body which is required to act in accordance with the Code and the Act places no statutory requirements on Estyn in respect of school organisation matters. Therefore, as a body being consulted, Estyn will provide their opinion only on the overall merits of school organisation proposals. Estyn has considered the educational aspects of the proposal and has produced the following response to the information provided by the proposer.

The proposal is to carry out a regulated alteration to relocate Ysgol Y Lawnt and Upper Rhymney Primary School to a shared dual-purpose building on a new site. The two schools will continue to provide Welsh and English medium primary education and remain as separate entities.


Estyn considers that the proposal is likely to, at least, maintain the standard of education provision in the area.

Description and benefits

The local authority has set out a clear rationale for its proposal. It outlines simply the advantages of building a new joint facility while identifying the relatively poor condition rating of the two existing school buildings. Neither of the current school buildings is fully DDA compatible and the local authority identifies that both have a backlog of maintenance. However, neither school’s buildings are at the lowest condition level and the proposal does not identify the scope or cost of necessary maintenance work.

The main school building of Ysgol Y Lawnt is Grade II Listed and subject to development restrictions. The site also has limited outdoor play areas. Upper Rhymney Primary is on two levels and currently has no lift. The proposal is to create a large, energy efficient building on a new site with modern classrooms, enhanced outdoor facilities and flexible spaces for shared and communal use.

While the local authority provides a clear description of the proposal and a projected timetable for statutory procedures, it does not provide a timetable for implementation of the proposals or for the transfer to the new site.

In the main, the proposer identifies clearly and fairly the expected benefits and disadvantages when compared with the status quo and how they will manage any risk. The local authority has provided a Welsh language Impact Assessment and a Community Impact Assessment as part of its proposal.

The local authority sets out four possible alternatives to its proposal. It provides suitable reasons for rejecting the option of building two new school buildings on the same site. However, it does not identify specifically why the possibility of developing either school independently on its existing site has been discounted, other than by stating the view that limitations on both sites make this alternative poor value for money and high risk.

The proposer has considered, in part, the impact of the changes on learner travel arrangements. It notes rightly that travel times for ‘a minority’ of pupils may change as a result of the proposed school’s new location, but does not consider how many pupils, nor detail how the local authority will deal with this issue. The local authority does point out that it considers the difference in time taken to travel to the new school site will be negligible as it is in relatively close proximity to both existing schools.

The proposal projects a modest growth in pupil numbers at both schools over the next few years, with the need for around 193 Welsh medium pupil places and 157 English medium pupil places by 2026. At the same time, the new build would cater for 525 pupils, plus a nursery and 16 special resource base places. The proposer does not explore the reason for surplus spaces thoroughly, other than identifying that a new innovative build may stimulate demand and that possible surplus places in the English medium provision could be managed sustainably by balancing the need to increase places in the Welsh medium school.

The proposal takes clear account of the impact of the proposals on Welsh medium provision within the local authority and the extent to which the proposal supports the targets in the local authority’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP). The proposal to transfer Ysgol Y Lawnt to a new 21st century standard school building with an increased capacity will contribute to the authority’s aim of increasing the number of pupils accessing Welsh medium education and expand the opportunities for pupils to pursue an education through the medium of Welsh. The proposal gives due consideration to the possible negative impact on pupil numbers in neighbouring Welsh medium schools. In mitigation, the local authority has outlined the possibility of minimising this through a managed and phased capacity increase of the new Welsh medium provision.

The proposal identifies that the local authority has set aside a reserve for capital costs as part of the Sustainable Communities for Learning Band B Programme. The proposal does not provide an estimate for the cost of the new build or details of any potential savings.

Educational aspects of the proposal

The local authority does not give thorough consideration in its proposal to the impact of the changes on the quality and standards in education. For example, while it signposts the most recent inspection reports for both schools it does not identify directly whether the proposed change would assist the schools in addressing any of the identified recommendations.

The proposal does outline the benefit of the enhanced outdoor areas planned for the new site. For example, it highlights the provision of a MUGA with 3G surface and of a forest school and allotments for pupils’ use. It assumes fairly that pupil attitudes and well-being would likely be impacted positively by the increased opportunity to engage in outdoor learning and physical play using these resources. The proposal also indicates that flexible use of the space may benefit pupils by enabling worthwhile opportunities for partnership working between the two schools and with community partners. For example, the proposal considers the potential positive impact on pupil, staff and community use of the Welsh language through the sharing of expertise between the two schools and common access to the bilingual reception area and communal facilities. However, the proposal does not give appropriate consideration to any potential adverse impacts arising from two schools sharing the same site, such as competition over the use of shared spaces or other limiting factors at an operational level that may compromise their independent function.

The proposal considers, in part, the impact on vulnerable groups, in particular those pupils with Special Educational Needs who are likely to benefit from the provision of two separate learning resources bases with eight pupil places in each language medium. In terms of accessibility, the new building will be fully accessible and compliant with the Equality’s Act 2010.

The local authority rightly identifies that the proposed changes would result in some disruption and adjustment for pupils, staff and the wider community. The proposal seeks to maintain continuity for each of the schools by retaining the current leadership and governance arrangements for both schools and by engaging community partners in plans to transfer existing aspects of community use. Given that the proposal is to build on a new site, there should be no detrimental impact on the experience of pupils in either school during the construction phase.