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Flintshire education shake-up could cost £200m

A MAJOR shake-up of education which could see three high schools close will cost as much as £200m, Flintshire County Council has revealed.

On Tuesday the authority’s executive committee agreed to begin a public consultation over controversial proposals to tackle surplus places in the county’s secondary schools – three of which are just three quarters full.

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, executive member for education, warned the process would be extremely costly – between £150m and £200m – but said the council had no choice but to take action if it did not want the Welsh Government to step in and sort out the problem itself.

The options outlined would see: John Summers High School in Queensferry closed and its students transferred to Connah’s Quay High School.

An amalgamation of Elfed High School in Buckley and Argoed High School, Mynydd Isa.

Holywell High School – the only secondary education facility in the north of the county – become part of a education super-site, housing a library and community facilities as well as both primary and secondary education provision.

Ian Budd, the council’s director of lifelong learning, said the authority’s focus was maintaining its good performance in secondary schools, which is currently the best in Wales following a recent Estyn inspection.

He added: “We will be entering into a full consultation with school staff, parents and pupils and are expecting to consider the most compelling proposal for each area.”

He said two consultation periods would be held either side of the summer holidays and council chiefs would keep ‘an open mind’ to any alternative solutions put forward.

Council leader Arnold Woolley said: “This is an uncomfortable nettle – but one which has to be grasped.”

Under Welsh Government guidelines, any schools with surplus places of more than 25% must be reviewed.

Mr Budd also said some of Flintshire’s school buildings desperately needed work to modernise them, and that could not be done until a proper review had been completed.

He added: “At least one of the school buildings is in need of major work immediately if it is to continue to provide a suitable service to students.

“Our schools must be fit for purpose in the 21st century.”

A final decisions on the plans are expected in December and changes would be implemented from September 2012.