WORRIED parents fear pupils education will suffer because a school will have to close for an extra two weeks before a new £39.4 million education project gets off the ground.
Letters were sent out last week by Jonathan Hicks, head of St Cyres School which is set to move to the long-awaited Penarth Learning Community project which is on track to open in November this year.
The project promises to offer “a modern learning environment that will inspire pupils to learn” – but parents have raised concerns that St Cyres pupils will suffer during a near three week planned closure to allow materials to be moved from the old to the new school.
The £39.4 million project off Sully Road will be the base of St Cyres as well as a new Special Education Needs (SEN) school, Ysgol y Deri, formed by the three existing SEN schools in the area: Ysgol Erw’r Delyn, Ysgol Maes Dyfan and Ashgrove School.
It was recently announced that St Cyres would be closed for a week either side of the October half term, between October 20 and November 10, to allow all of the equipment to be moved from one school to another.
The school will re-open to Year 11 and Year 13 pupils only on Thursday, November 6, and Friday, November 7, while the school will re-open to all year groups on Monday, November 10, but there will be a staggered start before the school reaches full capacity.
Ron McLean, associate project manager for AECOM, said that the decision to close the school for a period of time was “based on professional experience” and that a number of other major school redevelopments, including in Bridgend, Newport and Blaeanau Gwent, had followed the same procedure.
He added that it would be a “modern learning environment that will inspire pupils to learn” and said: “It’s going to be a fantastic development and I would have loved to have come to school here myself.”
St Cyres School head teacher Dr Jonathan Hicks said that the Penarth Learning Community would be a “superb new facility that will benefit the whole community” and will “further improve teaching and learning at St Cyres”.
He added that in order to minimise disruption to the pupils’ education the school would need to be closed for a period of time “to enable staff and removers to pack equipment and resources for transfer to the new school building and then to unpack them and set up the classrooms and offices”.
“I appreciate that a closure of this length may cause issues with child care, but such a complicated transfer of staff and resources does require time and I hope you will support us in ensuring a smooth move to the new school building,” he said.
“We have also changed the date of our Year 10 Work Experience Week to Monday, October 20, to Friday, October 24, from the usual Easter-time date in order to add a week’s learning for that year group in the spring term.”
Parents have raised concerns about the impacts of pupils missing an additional two weeks of school.
Mark Price, in a letter to the Penarth Times, welcomed the move to the new Penarth Learning Community building and said it would be a “fantastic benefit for staff and teachers alike” and that the “time and energy commitment” to moving all the equipment cannot be underestimated.
However, he added: “I am somewhat alarmed to hear that the school will be closed for three weeks in total, one week either side of the half term. My daughter will be Year 11 from September and this is much to an important a year for her to be missing two weeks worth of work.”
He added that although Year 11 pupils will return on the Thursday, “this is still the best part of three weeks off in total and I question how and where that precious time will be made up for the work lost. Even if work is sent home for pupils that is not the same, or scant recompense, for the school being closed, and there is no substitute for in the classroom teaching”.
It has recently been announced that the Special Education Needs school Ysgol Y Deri, which was planning to open on January 5, 2015, will now open at the same time as St Cyres on November 10, 2014.
Demolition of the old schools will begin in November.