THE VALE Council has approved plans for a consultation to be held into merging two Dinas Powys schools together and creating a new primary school.

Under the proposals Dinas Powys Infants School and Murch Junior School would be merged together to create a new 420 place primary school.

An eight-week consultation will now run from June 2 to ‘assess the level of support’ about the prospect of discontinuing Murch Junior School and changing the age range of Dinas Powys Infant school to admit children up to the age of 11.

The two schools could be merged as soon as January 5, 2015, if the proposals are approved by the council, and would make a saving of more than £100,000.

Currently pupils attend Dinas Powys Infants School until Year 2, after which they are automatically transferred to Murch Junior School.

The new single phase primary school would cover the two sites under a single governing body and head teacher.

A report before the Vale Council cabinet stated that the head teacher of Murch Junior, Mr Derek Thomas, was resigning his post at the end of August and that this move had “presented an opportunity to review the current single phase structure of the schools with a view to amalgamating the schools on their current sites under a single governing body and head teacher”.

Councillor Chris Elmore, cabinet member for children’s services, said: "While I would never have wanted to lose a member of staff of Derek Thomas’s calibre, his decision to retire has presented us with the opportunity merge these two good schools and improve the educational opportunities for all of their pupils.”

The report added that benefits of amalgamating the schools included a smoother transition for pupils moving from the infant to junior phase, the establishment of one set of policies, shared staff and a shared ethos, and benefits to staff in their career development.

It added that amalgamation would be easier for parents to engage with the “particularly where they have children in both key stages as they would only need to familiarise themselves with one set of policies and one set of communications”.

An alternative option of closing both schools and opening a new school, where a governing body for the new school would be established which would decide the staffing structure for the new school including appointment to the post of head teacher, was dismissed.

The preferred option was to discontinue Murch Junior School and change the age range of Dinas Powys Infant School. The substantive head teacher of Dinas Powys Infant School would become the head teacher of the new amalgamated school and the governing body of the infant school would become the governing body of the new school and would be expanded from its current number of 14 up to a maximum of 18. This approach was adopted for the amalgamation of Romilly Infant and Junior Schools in 2008.

Dinas Powys councillor Chris Franks said there was “mixed views” from local residents about the two schools being amalgamated.

“Locally some can see the benefits, but others are concerned the head teacher will find it difficult to manage a split school,” he said.

“The timing is convenient for the Vale Council, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.”

Councillor Chris Elmore, cabinet member for children’s services, dismissed rumours of a “master plan” to sell off land in Dinas Powys by merging the two schools.

“That is not the case,” he said.

The report will now be referred to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for information, before it is returned to cabinet on or after December 1. The schools could merge by the start of the January term, 2015.