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Flintshire schools shake-up could go back to the drawing board

CONTROVERSIAL plans to overhaul high school education in Flintshire may have to be shelved.

County council chiefs could be forced to rethink radical proposals to close and merge secondary schools – which have been met with anger – after the Welsh Government cut its funding.

Under the changes to the national school-building programme 21st Century Schools, councils will now have to pay 50% of any project costs, instead of 30%.

The Welsh Government said the decision was forced by 40% cuts in its budget from Westminster.

Delyn MP David Hanson said: “The proposals from the council have caused considerable concern locally, and the financial pressures now put on the Assembly from the Westminster Government’s financial cutbacks have now added a further challenge.

“I have had many constituents contact me about the proposal for Argoed High School in particular, and I know they would wish the council to revisit these proposals urgently in the light of these developments.”

Ian Budd, Flintshire’s director of lifelong learning, told the Chronicle the council may have to ‘re-prioritise’.

The authority is reviewing secondary education in the county and is in a period of public consultation – costing £5,397 – over proposed changes.

The embryonic plans include merging John Summers High School in Queensferry with Connah’s Quay High School and amalgamating the Argoed in Mynydd Isa with Elfed High School, Buckley.

It is believed the total cost of the project could be as much as £200m.

Alyn and Deeside MP Mark Tami branded the council’s consultation process ‘a farce’.

He said: “The council has made a pig’s ear of this from the very start.

“They are not taking into account the views of the students, parents and teaching staff affected.

“I have been inundated with letters, emails and visits to surgeries from constituents concerned that their views are not being listened to.”

Cllr Nigel Steele-Mortimer, the council’s executive member for education, said: “The effect of this will be that we shall not be able to do as much as we would have liked.”

Mr Budd said: “The financial climate dictates that re-prioritisation does occur, and we need to work closely to examine all potentially new sources of funding available to update our school environments and to ensure the right provision in the right place for the future.

“The current consultations are part of this work.”

He added: “We will have to plan any future capital projects, including any commissioned as part of the secondary review, on the basis of 50% contributions from the Welsh Government.”