Pupils could remain in temporary classrooms for another two years after ‘superschool’ plans delayed

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A council plans to continue teaching pupils in temporary classrooms for another two years after plans for a “superschool” were put on hold.

Pupils from Godre’rgraig Primary School, Ystalyfera, have been taught in temporary buildings within the grounds of Cwmtawe Community School, Pontardawe, since September 2019 and they could remain there for another two years.

Neath Port Talbot Council was planning to close three primary schools (including Godre’rgraig) in order to create a 750-pupil school at Parc Ynysderw, Pontardawe, by 2024 but the plans were put on hold earlier this month.

Read more: Funding plans for Swansea Valley ‘super-school’ are put on hold

Following concern from parents that their objections to the school plans had been ignored by the council, Welsh minister for education Jeremy Miles told S4C the proposal was “paused” to allow government officials to discuss the plans with the Welsh Government and consider how it could impact the Welsh language.

If the council’s plan does go ahead, Alltwen, Godre’rgraig, and Llangiwg Primary schools, which are all English-medium schools, will close. The proposal includes a learning support centre for primary-age pupils with autistic spectrum disorder and a 25-metre, six-lane swimming pool.

After the announcement that the superschool plans had been put on hold, the council submitted a formal planning application to keep the temporary classrooms next to Cwmtawe Community School for another two years.

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The council decided to move Godre’rgraig pupils to an alternative site in July 2019 after geological experts found there could be a potential landslide risk at the school’s playground.

A study by Earth Science Partnership (ESP) found a medium level risk from Cilmaengwyn Tip linked to springs and ground water near the school. They claimed a stream blocked by bad weather could cause rising water levels and pressures in the tip and lead to material flowing downhill.

A research report from 2020 states the tip poses “a very low to low risk to residential properties in Godre’r Graig”, which is “usually acceptable to regulators” and risk to nearby cemeteries is “likely to be lower”.

Councillors agreed to pay ESP £20,000 to undertake an in-depth study and produce a plan of action for the spoil tip during a meeting in May.

The options that will be considered for the site are:

  • Remove the spoil material linked to the tip
  • “Hard engineering” including drainage work to protect Godre’rgraig Primary School from the slippage of any spoil material from the tip
  • Demolish the school and use the site for “community benefit”

A report by council officers states the site at Cwmtawe Community School was chosen for the temporary classrooms because it was “available for immediate use”, could accommodate pupils “at short notice” and is “suitable” for access by cars and pedestrians.

It also said the site could ensure pupils and staff would be “accommodated safely, with minimal disruption”.

As part of the arrangement, since 2019, temporary parking spaces were made for teachers and staff and a bus pick-up and drop-off facility was created for the Godre’rgraig pupils. It was agreed dining and catering facilities would already be provided by the existing school buildings.

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