ALMOST £1million of unspent funds allocated to Caerphilly council’s 21st Century Schools programme could be used to refurbish a special school.

A report reveals a projected underspend in the first phase of the £56.5 million school improvement programme, which is jointly funded by the council and the Welsh Government.

Keri Cole, the authority’s chief education officer, has suggested that £940,120 be spent on Trinity Fields School and Resource Centre in Ystrad Mynach.

The funding could be made available as the redevelopment of Blackwood Comprehensive School, which includes a new state-of-the-art 3G pitch, has yet to be fully realised.

The report says: “Whilst the projected underspend is an estimate only, members are asked to note that in respect of Blackwood Comprehensive School, the projected costs are currently more fluid than the other [21st Century Schools] projects above as the tender process has not yet been concluded.”

Local authorities are required to notify the Welsh Government about any underspends regarding 21st Century Schools and provide alternative usage of the funds.

The council has found that Trinity Fields, which opened in 1998, requires “significant investment” to meet the changing and complex needs of current and future pupils.

Officers and school staff have identified areas of priority for spend at the school, which include improvements to the hydrotherapy pool, pupil kitchen and outdoor learning area.

“Through room” hoist systems within classrooms that go directly into toilets have been proposed, as well as adaptations to the toilets themselves.

Other potential projects include a ball pit, a new home living environment to increase independent living skills, increased storage, better IT facilities and improved ventilation within the school.

The report continues: “The works will be prioritised according to affordability. The budget that is available for the project will be restricted to a maximum of the confirmed underspend.”

Councillor Philippa Marsden, cabinet Member for education and achievement added:   I welcome the suggested refurbishment within Trinity Fields School.

“The improvements would make a tremendous difference to pupils within the school including increased independent living skills and easier accessibility for pupils with mobility issues”.

Such improvements would align with the council’s plans to spend £5 million expanding the school through the second phase of the 21st Century Schools programme in the county borough.

The report says that the plans would also meet the requirements of the Welsh Government’s new Additional Learning Needs Reform Bill.

The proposals will be discussed by Caerphilly council’s cabinet on Wednesday, July 11.