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Background

21st Century Schools investment for Greater Pontypridd

Written by on 26th June 2021

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has provided an update on the progress made towards delivering significant 21st Century Schools investment for the Greater Pontypridd area, following recent consideration by Cabinet Members.

At their meeting on June 17, Cabinet received a report in relation to the future education investment across Cilfynydd, Hawthorn, Rhydyfelin and Beddau. The initial proposals were extensively consulted upon and then approved by Cabinet in July 2019, in accordance with the School Organisation Code – with the exception of sixth form plans for Cardinal Newman RC Comprehensive School which, in adhering to the Code, were referred to Welsh Government.

Since Cabinet’s approval was granted, there was a legal challenge to the plans in the form of a Judicial Review. On December 21, 2020, the Court of Appeal found in the Council’s favour, allowing the proposals to proceed.

A report to the recent Cabinet meeting outlined that progress to deliver the investment had to be haltedduring the legal challenge – with 17 months passingbetween Cabinet’s original decision and the Court of Appeal’s ruling. As a result of the time lost, Cabinet has agreed to delay the delivery timescalefrom September 2022 to September 2024. TheCouncil has written to Welsh Ministers requesting approval for a delay to the sixth form changes.

The Cabinet report also outlined that the total level of investment has been revised – taking into consideration the delay, impacts of the pandemicand Brexit, current difficulty in sourcing materials such as steel, improvements made by revisiting aspects of the proposals and net zero carbon targets. The investment being delivered with support from the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme is now estimated to be £56m.

Latest progress updates for all four investments, taking into consideration the new agreed delivery timescale of September 2024, are included below.

New 3-16 school on the site of Pontypridd High School

With no new-build element to this project, workcontinues to be managed in-house. Some complementary works will take place this summer, before larger refurbishment schemes over two summer holidays (2022 and 2023) which will then allow the primary area to be reconfigured. Extensive traffic improvements and a brand new 3G sports pitch will complete the total estimated £7.5m investment.

New 3-16 school on the site of Hawthorn Primary and Hawthorn High School

A competitive tender process has been undertaken, and a design and build contractor will soon be appointed. Detailed design work will now progress, with the view to submitting a planning application by the end of 2021. The project includes a new teaching block, demolition of two poor-quality blocks, onsite traffic improvements, a new car park, and refurbishing and remodelling of the existing primary school – in an indicative total investment of £21m.

New Welsh Medium Primary School in Rhydyfelin

Significant progress has seen ISG appointed as the design and build contractor following a competitive tender process – and it is also hoped that a planning application will be submitted by the end of 2021. The £13m project will deliver a brand new 21st Century School, external play areas and MUGAs, local traffic improvements, a car park and an onsite bus drop-off area.

New sixth form at Bryncelynnog Comprehensive School

A contractor will soon be appointed to take the scheme forward following the tender process, in order to submit a planning application by the end of the calendar year. The estimated £15m investmentwill include creating a brand new sixth form block and delivering new sports facilities, demolishing two poor-quality teaching blocks and providing a new car park and access to the school.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said:Cabinet recently received an update from Officers on the excitingfuture investment in 21st Century Schools facilities for the Greater Pontypridd area. They agreed with recommendations to revise the delivery of these projects to September 2024, and noted that the total joint investment with Welsh Government is now projected to be £56m.

The proposals are aimed at delivering first-classschool facilities and new opportunities for young people in their education. The Council has an excellent track record of delivering ambitious 21stCentury Schools projects in recent years – includingthose in Porth, Hirwaun, Treorchy, Ferndale,Tonyrefail, Cwmaman, Pontyclun, Tonypandy and Cwmaman since 2018.

The Cabinet report also provided an importantupdate on how each of the four Greater Pontypriddprojects have progressed in the first half of 2021 – with the projects in Hawthorn, Rhydyfelin and Beddau all now working towards submitting respective planning applications later this year.

“A contractor has been appointed to design and build the new 21st Century School in Rhydyfelin, which will significantly increase Welsh Medium primary provision locally – a key target in the Council’s Welsh in Education Strategic Plan in areas where demand is higher than capacity. Meanwhile, the Council is also near to appointing contractors for the Hawthorn and Beddau schemes, while the project on the current Pontypridd High School site will be progressed over a series of summer works, starting in the school holidays this year.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting staff and pupils enjoying many of the completed 21st Century Schools projects in recent years – most recently at Hirwaun Primary School – and they really have a positive transformation on school life. I’m pleased that the Pontypridd projects are making good progress towards an agreed delivery for the 2024/25 academic year, to replace existing facilities with stimulating learning environments fit for the 21stCentury.