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Flintshire council chiefs refuse to rule out merging high schools

EDUCATION chiefs are refusing to rule out the controversial merger of two high schools.

The amalgamation of the Argoed in Mynydd Isa and the Elfed in Buckley is under consideration as part of a county-wide programme to deal with surplus places in Flintshire’s high schools.

The proposed move has been strongly opposed by parents, pupils and governors from the Argoed.

The Elfed has 393 surplus places and is 38% under-capacity – the second-highest figure of the county’s 12 secondary schools.

But campaigners from Mynydd Isa claim it is unfair to jeopardise the Argoed students’ education just because the Elfed is less than two-thirds full.

At a meeting of Flintshire County Council on Tuesday Cllr Hilary McGuill – a governor at Argoed – said she was under the impression the proposed merger had been formally shelved after a huge backlash during public consultation.

But council leader Aaron Shotton said it was still a possibility.

A range of proposals – also affecting schools in Deeside and Holywell – will be whittled down by the authority’s cabinet and the shortlist approved by the whole council before a fresh stakeholder consultation programme.

Cllr Shotton, who became leader of the council for the second time last month, vowed to tackle the problem of high school surplus places head-on.

“What we will ensure is that we move forward on this matter,” he told the meeting.

“Every surplus place within the system is a tax on every child within the system.”

Cllr McGuill said: “The Argoed is not the solution to the Elfed’s surplus places and I don’t feel it’s right.

“Nowhere do you hijack a school to solve another school’s problems.”

Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for education, said the amalgamation had never been ruled out.

He told the meeting: “There may be options that don’t have support, but we have to analyse and assess all the responses (from the public).

“Cllr McGuill may not be happy, but that’s her problem.”