PLANS to close two secondary schools in the Islwyn area and build another in their place are a step closer after the council decided to proceed with a statutory notice.

The creation of a new school will mean the closure of the existing Pontllanfraith and Oakdale Comprehensive Schools, with a new school to be built on the Oakdale Plateau 3 site, leaving Blackwood Comprehensive as the only other secondary school in the Islwyn West area.

A report presented to a Caerphilly council cabinet meeting yesterday (Wed) said there will be “personnel implications” in relation to staff from the existing Oakdale and Pontllanfraith Comprehensives. The proposed new school, which has a planned completion date of September 2016, is planned to be designed with a capacity of 900 pupils with an additional provision for special needs of around 50 pupils.

A statutory notice must stand for a minimum of 28 days, during which period members of the public may register objections.

Under the proposals, the catchment areas would change in order to ensure both schools would be similar in terms of the number of pupils attending both.

The proposed catchment area changes are to make Libanus and Markham Primary Schools feeder schools to Blackwood Comprehensive rather than Pontllanfraith Comprehensive.

The sixth form provision for Blackwood Comprehensive and the new school would continue to be provided by Cross Keys College.

Consultations took place in January to get the views of those most affected by the proposed shake-up, which comes as part of the wider 21st Century Schools Programme across Wales.

Rhianon Passmore, cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, praised the “detailed involvement” of the schools during the consultation.

Caerphilly council has secured funding of £20 million to deliver the project, with a confirmation of actual costs expected to be presented to cabinet at a later date.

The council says the proposal will help reduce the amount of surplus places in the area from 22.1 per cent to 16.9 per cent, after the Welsh Government urged all local authorities to take action to reduce unwanted surplus places. Following an inspection in 2012, Caerphilly council was told by Estyn, the education and training inspectorate for Wales, that the authority needed to “take urgent action to reduce surplus capacity in schools generally and secondary schools in particular”.

Caerphilly council must consider all objections during the statutory notice period before deciding whether or not to go ahead with the plans.