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RCT COUNCIL TO SEEK PERMISSION TO APPEAL THE COURT’S DECISION AT THE COURT OF APPEAL OF 21st CENTURY SCHOOLS PLAN

Written by on 25th September 2020

Following receipt of the Court’s decision on this matter in July, the Council has now had the opportunity to fully-review and reflect on that decision – and based on legal advice, the Council today sought permission to appeal the Court’s decision.

Throughout this school reorganisation process, the Council has sought to follow the decision-making process as set out in the relevant legislation and Welsh Government guidance and procedures, specifically those set out in the School Organisation Code. While the Court did find against the Council on two particular issues, the Council’s decision in respect of those issues was taken in line with Welsh Government’s own interpretation of the relevant legislation and the Code.

Following a hearing today, the Council has been granted permission to appeal the above decision on one of the issues at the Court of Appeal. It will now seek further permission from the Court of Appeal to challenge the remaining issue. Welsh Ministers have confirmed that as the Council has obtained permission to appeal from the Court they will intervene in the appeal and will be supporting the Council’s position.

County Borough Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of the Council, said: “As Council Leader, I would once again like to re-emphasise that throughout this process the overriding objective of the Council has been to positively transform the delivery of education, through the medium of both Welsh and English in the Greater Pontypridd area, by delivering significant investment, which would improve the opportunities available to young people.

“As a result of the complexities of this matter and the consequential impact that the Court’s decision may have upon future school reorganisation proposals, not just in Rhondda Cynon Taf but across Wales, we have, based upon legal advice, sought permission to appeal this decision. The importance of seeking reconsideration of the Court’s decision is reflected by the decision of Welsh Ministers to support the Council’s position.

“I also acknowledge that there were concerns raised through the various processes related to this decision by some residents, pupils and campaign groups, but, in light of the significant implications this decision has on education in Wales, it is on this basis and this basis alone, that the Council has sought permission to appeal and obtain clarity on those matters in light of the legal advice received by the Council.

“I would also like to place on record however that irrespective of the outcome of any appeal the Council wishes to continue to engage with school governing bodies, pupils and the local communities they serve, in relation to the reorganisation of the schools in the Greater Pontypridd area, to ensure we continue to improve the educational experience and outcomes of all pupils.”

Cathy Lisles, Chair of Our Children First (Ein Plant Yn Gyntaf), the organisation which challenged the Council’s plans told GTFM:

“We are disappointed that even though the council has now acknowledged that there were concerns raised through various processes related to this decision by residents, pupils and campaign groups, they have decided to appeal the judge’s decision. We seriously question if this costly course of action is the best use of their resources during these unprecedented times of the pandemic and also following on from the serious flooding in many parts of the River Taf valley.

“The council continues to show an alarming disregard for the repercussions these plans will have on pupils’ wellbeing and future prospects, especially the children living in some of our most disadvantaged communities. We only wish that the council had seen fit to engage with school governing bodies, pupils and the local communities that they serve as in accordance with the School Organisation Code at the formative stage of the proposals back in 2017 rather than after they had been constructed and had then taken those views into account.

“Whilst these proposals are a significant financial investment, there is no evidence that education in Pontypridd will be improved and indeed the evidence suggests they will do more harm as many more primary age children will have to travel long distances. Welsh medium education should be accessible to all and it quite simply will not be for our communities if this plan goes ahead. This also creates a huge barrier to sixth form education for Pontypridd English-medium secondary pupils who will have no local school-based sixth form provision and huge amounts of travelling to access what will be made available.

“Every child should be afforded the opportunity to learn in a local environment that makes them feel secure, worthwhile, invested in, and part of a community. We will not stop working  to secure the best outcomes for the future education of all of our children, making sure that they, above all, come first.”