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Public set to have say on plans for new Welsh medium Neath Abbey school

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Councillors have given the go ahead for public consultation on plans for a new Welsh-medium primary school in Neath.

If approved, the proposed school, which would also feature a 45-place nursery and a 12-place childcare setting, would be located on the St Johns Terrace, Neath Abbey Primary site soon to be vacated by the English medium Abbey Primary School.

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At their meeting on 19 January 2022, members of Neath Port Talbot Council’s Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Board agreed the Welsh Medium school plan should go out to public consultation.

The backround to the proposal is that in recent years, pressure for places in both Welsh and English medium schools has risen in the Neath Abbey, Skewen and Crymlyn areas. New housing developments in Crymlyn and Coed Darcy in particular have contributed to the increase.  

The Council submitted an expression of interest to Welsh Government in October for specific Welsh-medium capital funding to support the proposed school which aspires to refurbish, re-model, and adapt the existing buildings at Abbey Primary’s St John’s Terrace site.

Abbey Primary School currently operates between three separate sites and the school is due to relocate to a brand new build single site school currently under construction at Heol Penlan in the Longford area of Neath during March 2022.

It is proposed the Welsh medium school would open for part time nursery pupils in January 2023 with the first cohort of full time reception pupils expected to attend the new school from September 2023. 

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Culture, Cllr Peter Rees, said: “Welsh-medium education is an integral and essential part of the learning offer in Neath Port Talbot and all children should benefit from the opportunity to learn, appreciate and understand their lives through the medium of Welsh. 

“This principle is underpinned by ensuring universal access to this provision across the county borough. Neath Port Talbot Council recognises that language and culture are critical parts of an individual’s identity and is committed to promoting and celebrating Welsh language learning across all phases and sectors.”

The Council say that their draft Welsh in Education Strategic Plan (WESP) 2022-32, is the cornerstone for its vision for increasing and improving the planning of Welsh medium education provision in Neath Port Talbot – enabling all learners to develop their Welsh language skills and to use the language confidently in everyday life. 

The overarching ten year target in Neath Port Talbot is to increase the number of Year 1 children taught through the medium of Welsh from 16.8% (252 pupils) in 2020/21 (PLASC 2021) to 31% (460 pupils) by 2032.

It is anticipated that locating a new Welsh-medium school in this location will alleviate capacity issues in both Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Castell-nedd and Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Tyle’r Ynn (nearly or at full capacity) and will further stimulate demand for Welsh-medium education provision in the area.

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In Neath Port Talbot, both the number and percentage of reception pupils in Welsh-medium schools has increased for the third year in a row with the percentage higher than it has been since 2013.

The total spend to date (Bands A and B) under the 21st Century Schools programme in modernising Neath Port Talbot’s school estate has now reached £165m – a massive investment in Neath Port Talbot’s next generations and the biggest of any council in Wales outside of Cardiff.

The 21st Century Schools programme is a collaboration between the Welsh Government and local councils in Wales. It is a significant, long-term and strategic capital investment programme with the aim of creating a generation of 21st Century Schools across Wales.

(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)

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