RCT – Investing £26.8m in Cynon Valley schools

Written by on 19th February 2021

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet will receive an update on the £26.8m investment in 21st Century Schools facilities in the Cynon Valley – including ongoing delivery of new facilities and a school in Hirwaun, and future schemes in Cwmdare and Penywaun which could start on site in the coming months. 

A report on Thursday, February 25, will update Members on the investment, which was initially approved by Cabinet in 2018 and is supported by Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme.

Hirwaun Primary School

The £10.2m improvements are being delivered in a phased programme. A state-of-the-art new school building (completed in November 2020) and an on-site Flying Start provision (January 2021) are now being enjoyed by staff and pupils. The project’s second phase is now underway – to demolish the old junior school block and deliver wider external facilities, including staff car parking, an ecological habitat area, a grass sports pitch and external spaces.

In accordance with the school organisation consultation approved in 2019, Penderyn Primary will become solely a Welsh Medium school in September 2021 – when its English Medium pupils will access the new school in Hirwaun.

YGG Aberdâr Cwmdare

A £4.5m investment will provide 48 extra Welsh Medium places to help meet demand and provide an on-site childcare setting (via £810,000 from Welsh Government’s Welsh Medium Capital Grant). It includes a four-classroom extension, an expansion of the existing hall and increased on-site parking.

Funding was agreed in November 2020 and the project’s detailed design is almost complete. A consultation will be undertaken with the school community and local residents before a planning application is submitted, to ensure their views are captured. Work could start on site in summer 2021. The Council will undertake a traffic assessment to identify improvements required for local ‘Safe Routes’ in the community – which could deliver traffic and road safety improvements near the school, and strategies to encourage local walking and cycling.

Ysgol Rhydywaun, Penywaun

Plans to increase the Welsh Medium secondary provision by 187 places are advanced, with a planning application submitted and a contractor now appointed. The project will deliver a new school block – with eight classrooms, community rooms, drama and music facilities, and a new school reception – plus a sports hall, fitness suite and changing rooms. Extra parking and traffic improvements are included. Work is planned to start on site in April 2021.

When Cabinet approved the proposals in 2018, the scheme’s estimated cost was £10.2m. However, significant work has since been undertaken – including curriculum analysis, site investigations and detailed designs. The scope of the project has been developed and now includes the significant refurbishment of several areas of the school to deliver the curriculum effectively and allow the school to accommodate its extra capacity. The investment is now £12.1m.

The funding package has also changed, with the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme’s Band B grant intervention rate rising from 50% to 65% since it was approved in 2018. Therefore, even though the scope of the project has increased, the Council’s contribution to deliver the scheme has decreased from £5.1m to £4.2m.

Additional Investment in the Cynon Valley

The report also adds that more than £2m has also been spent in the Cynon Valley since March 2019 via the Council’s Capital and School Modernisation Programme. This includes the delivery of roof replacements, boilers, toilets and hygiene rooms, and general upgrades to classrooms and play areas.

Councillor Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Inclusion Services, said: “Cabinet Members will receive an important progress update on the ongoing and future 21st Century Schools investment for the Cynon Valley, building upon the Council’s excellent track record of delivering education facilities fit for the 21st Century in partnership with Welsh Government. Our aim is to provide improved provision across RCT, with four new schools delivered in Rhondda and Tonyrefail in 2018/19 and plans for several exciting projects in Greater Pontypridd in the near future.

“Pending successful planning applications, I’m pleased that construction of the schemes at YGG Aberdâr and Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun could start soon, to deliver the best facilities for even more of our young people. Both of these schemes will increase Welsh Medium places locally, as the Council works towards delivering improved outcomes as outlined in its Welsh in Education Strategic Plan and makes its contributions towards Welsh Government’s target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

“The £10.2m Hirwaun Primary School investment is also making significant progress. I took the opportunity to visit pupils and staff members in their new home in November 2020, and the facilities really are tremendous. Work is now ongoing to compliment the new building with improved outdoor spaces.”

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