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Flintshire councillors approve £64.2m schools shake-up blueprint

AMBITIOUS plans to overhaul Flintshire’s education system are a step closer to becoming a reality after being approved by councillors.

The £64.2m shake-up, given the thumbs-up at County Hall on Tuesday morning, will see:

A new high school built in Holywell and a new primary school on the same site to replace Ysgol Perth y Terfyn and Ysgol y Fron.

An ‘all-through’ school created at the John Summers/Queensferry Primary campus catering for children aged three-16, with one headteacher and governing body.

Under-capacity sixth forms at Holywell, John Summers and Elfed High School in Buckley closed and a larger ‘post-16 hub’ created at Connah’s Quay.

Cabinet member for education, Cllr Chris Bithell, said: “No-one likes change, but the status quo is not an option. Action is needed to ensure the future of our schools.”

The plans are aimed at reducing the 1,395 surplus places in Flintshire’s 12 secondary schools, which costs the council more than £700,000 a year.

The Welsh Government will contribute 50% of the £64.2m bill.

Council leader Aaron Shotton described the blueprint as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’.

Director of lifelong learning Ian Budd added: “We have the prospect of creating something very special.”

Cllr Bithell said the sixth forms at Holywell and the Elfed currently have 73 students each – the council’s guideline figure is 120.

“We have to face the reality of the situation. The current numbers are well below the level that is considered viable and sustainable,” he said.

He told the meeting the closure of the Buckley sixth form had ‘met much opposition’, but said the school’s headteacher had acknowledged it had ‘significant surplus places’.

In future further education students will go to the sixth form at the Alun School in Mold – the largest in Wales.

Cllr Bithell said the plans for Deeside have received ‘significant support’.

Under the changes 50-plus pre-school children currently looked after at the Croft Nursery in Higher Shotton will be moved to the new school in Queensferry and St Ethelwold’s Primary in Shotton.

Cllr Shotton praised the ‘real passion’ with which campaigners opposed the original proposals put forward by the previous administration, which included the closure of John Summers and the amalgamation of the Elfed and Argoed High in Mynydd Isa.

Cllr Bithell added: “The exercise hasn’t been easy. We are never going to please all of the people all of the time.”