Rhyl’s two Catholic schools will be closed and replaced by a new £24 million ”all through” school.
Councillors voted on Tuesday to approve plans to replace Ysgol Mair and Blessed Edward Jones High – the new school, for three to 16 year-old pupils, is due to open in September 2019.
A public consultation on the plans, launched in February, found only eight objections to the proposals with 98 in favour. A final decision is expected in the Autumn.
Objectors to closing the two current schools said money should have been spent on improvements to Ysgol Mair and Blessed Edward Jones instead of building a replacement.
Maintenance costs for the minimum amount of work needed were estimated at around £400,000 and £1.3 million respectively – but Denbighshire County Council said upgrading the schools would not enhance the learning environment.
Concerns were also raised about the fall in the number of pupils at the high school since the opening of the new £25 million home of Rhyl High School. Schools inspectorate Estyn said while the two schools had expected losses in their last two years, they claimed the proposals had not properly considered how the new school would be supported financially as primary pupils move up to the secondary tier.
The council said the new school would provide a ”different choice for parents” under the new all through model, but it would carefully review the financial situation based on pupil numbers. Pupils from other local primary schools will also be able to transfer to the new school in Year 7.
The statutory notice to close both schools will be published later this month, followed by 28 days to allow for objections. The council’s cabinet is expected to make its final decision on the project in the autumn.
Blessed Edward Jones has been classified as a ‘red school’ by the Welsh Government’s ratings system for the past three years – among those in the greatest need of improvement. In 2013, plans to merge the school with St Brigid’s in Denbigh to create a multi-faith school at the two sites were scrapped.
When the plans were first announced in January, a council report stated it was suffering from poor examination and leadership. There was a ‘very high’ turnover of headteachers, and the quality of teaching and learning had been compromised by small classrooms and a lack of facilities.
Ysgol Mair – the smallest of Rhyl’s six primary schools – was deemed adequate following an inspection by Estyn last year. But the school has suffered financial problems for several years and many parents have decided not to send their children to other high schools locally after they finish primary education.
Other issues cited by the council included low pupil attendance at both schools, a lack of technological courses at higher levels and poor facilities, such as poor design technology workshops and a lack of all-weather facilities for PE.
The new school will have a new name, uniform, headteacher, staff and board of governors. It will be voluntary aided with facilities including specialist classrooms, a sports hall, a studio and a chapel & prayer room. Children from both schools would be transferred to the new school.
Head of Education and Children’s Services, Karen Evans, said: ”This proposal reflects the commitment we have made in Denbighshire to improving performance in education and the quality of our school buildings. We want to make sure that we provide the right number of school places, of the right type and in the right location. Whilst we are very pleased with the feedback that we have received to date, there is still a process to follow and a final decision will not be taken until later this year.”