8:41am Wednesday 4th September 2013
MEMBERS of the public will be able to have their say on a proposed new super school in Caerphilly county borough this term.
Consultation on the so-called Islwyn West proposal is due to start this autumn after Caerphilly councillors voted in July in favour of shutting Oakdale and Pontllanfraith comprehensive schools and building a new building on Oakdale Business Park.
The council said this would create a similar-sized school to Blackwood Comprehensive, tackle surplus places and save £8 million on a 25-year backlog of required maintenance.
The meeting of full council's vote matched that of the education scrutiny panel who voted unanimously in favour of the plan.
Scrutiny members heard from assistant director of education, Bleddyn Hopkins, who presented a report containing recommendations from a 10-member cross-party working group made up of seven Labour and three Plaid Cymru councillors.
The council faces a total maintenance backlog of £140 million for all its schools, the meeting heard.
Cllr Jan Jones, member for Ynysddu ward, told the committee she had received no big complaints to the plans from her ward.
Cllr Leon Gardiner, member for Argoed and caretaker at Blackwood Primary School for 24 years, also addressed the meeting and said he had not received any complaints from parents.
"My people in my ward are giving you their thanks, this will be absolutely brilliant," he said.
Member for Bedwas, Trethomas and Machen, Cllr Derek Havard, who was part of the working group, said it was a "tremendous relief" that his colleagues supported the proposal, while Cllr Colin Gordon, governor at Pontllanfraith Comprehensive, said: "All taken in, the three Pontllanfraith councillors agree we will be supporting the recommendations."
The authority is already spending at least £20 million building a new Welsh-medium high school in Caerphilly, with funding from Welsh Government, as part of its £92 million 21st Century Schools programme.
Pupils could start moving to the new school in September 2016 and the proposal would help reduce surplus places in the area known as 'Islwyn West' from 22.1 per cent to 16.9 per cent.
The council has said the closure of Oakdale and Pontllanfraith would form part of the first phase of looking at secondary school provision in Caerphilly county borough.
Schools in the Mid and Upper Rhymney Valley will also be looked at in due course, they said.
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