Education shake-up could see pupils driven between sites
SIXTH-FORM students in Bridgend could be driven between different sites during their lunch break under plans to shake-up post-16 education in the area.
The proposal is part of plans to cut the number of sixth forms in the county borough to allow for larger class sizes and a greater selection of subjects.
However councillors raised concerns about the mental health and wellbeing of students if their lunch breaks were taken away.
Bridgend County Borough Council is consulting on a range of options for sixth forms and FE colleges. Its preferred options involve a mix of school sixth forms with some mergers to create either new local authority maintained sixth-form centre(s) or new further education college governed sixth-form centre(s).
It is expected that there will also be more online learning alongside traditional classroom teaching.
At a recent council meeting on the plans, officers said students would need to be transported between sites if sixth forms were merged.
John Fabes, BCBC specialist officer for post-16 education, said: “We will try to keep journey times to 20 minutes.
“The idea is that you would move youngsters at lunchtime so it doesn’t disrupt the actual teaching blocks within the day.”
But councillors raised concerns about away students’ breaks.
Councillor Nicole Burnett said: “Students’ lunchbreaks should be sacrosanct - there’s already enough pressure on pupils that eats into their social time in school which is hugely important for that age group.
“We need to be very careful that that’s taken very seriously - the wellbeing and mental health of our children of that age needs to be a priority.” taking lunch-
And Councillor Carolyn Webster added: “I’m concerned that permission is almost being given to young girls to skip a meal by telling them they should be en route somewhere else rather than sitting down eating.
“That’s very prevalent in society at the moment.”
The plans to change the provision of post-16 education in the county have been in the pipeline for some time.
A public consultation is due to take place on the proposals once they have gone before Bridgend County Borough Council’s cabinet in November.
At the scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday, October 16 councillors warned of students becoming “disengaged” if their own communities lost sixth forms.
Councillor Keith Edwards questioned whether the upcoming public consultation was transparent enough.
He said: “The preferred concepts are rather grey areas and the consultation document doesn’t identify where sixth form education will be maintained and lost.
“The schools that lose their sixth forms will see parents up in arms.
“Will we be challenged because the process isn’t transparent enough, because we are not saying which schools could be lost and which not - is the process flawed?”
Mr Fabes said the public consultation was to “test the water” to see what people thought about the concepts.
He said: “In the consultation paper there will be a lot of information about the impact of the different concepts in terms of the sizes of sixth forms, the finances and the standards which is not present in this paper here.
“Were the preferred concepts to be taken forward we would then have to look at every permutation that might be considered.
“If we extract the Welsh and faith-based provision we would be left with seven English medium high schools.
“We would need to consider what permutations there would be in terms of mergers, placements and centres.
“We would have to put those into an options paper and go out to public consultation on the precise mergers we are considering.”
Currently in the county there are sixth forms present in each secondary school.
They vary in size from 61 students to 347.
The six concepts being put forward for public consultation are:
Concept 1 – The retention of sixth forms in all schools - the current position
Concept 2 – The closure of all sixth forms and the development of a local authority maintained sixth-form centre(s)
Concept 3 – The closure of all sixth forms and the development of a further education (FE) college governed sixthform centre(s)
Concept 4 – A mix of school sixth forms with some mergers to create new local authority maintained sixth-form centre(s)
Concept 5 – A mix of school sixth forms with some mergers to create new FE college governed sixth-form centre(s)
Concept 6 – A full tertiary model governed by the FE sector The council’s preferred concepts are Concepts 4 and 5.
There are plans to cut the number of sixth forms in the county borough to allow for larger class sizes and a greater selection of subjects