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Partnership with Church in Wales school delivers solutions to Capital’s capacity challenges

Partnership with Church in Wales school delivers solutions to Capital’s capacity challenges

St. Teilo’s, a joint-venture between Cardiff County Council, the Church in Wales and the Welsh Government, has simultaneously tackled pupil capacity problems facing three different schools in the eastern suburbs of the Capital.

In doing so, the project, largely funded by the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Education Capital programmes, has played a pivotal role in a wide-ranging review of secondary provision across that part of the city.  

While an aging and under-subscribed mainstream school was gradually being phased out, a growing denominational  school, based half a mile away, literally moved in next door, thereby creating a new hi-tech learning environment with state-of-the-art sports facilities, that together will serve one of Cardiff’s more disadvantaged areas. St Teilos

The move has also freed up accommodation at the church school’s former site, allowing a new Welsh medium secondary to relocate there and expand to meet growing demand.

In summary, the complex £26m project encompasses the staged closure of Llanedeyrn High School, the building of a new St Teilo’s Church in Wales High School adjacent to the Llanedeyrn site and the provision of a new home for Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Edern within the old St Teilo’s building.

Eighty per-cent of the investment has come from the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Education Capital programmes, with the balance funded by the Council and the Church.

The building of the new showpiece St Teilo’s, which opened in September 2013, is the latest milestone in the reorganisation of secondary provision in the eastern suburbs. This process had already seen school mergers and major renovations, all designed to deal with surplus places and deteriorating buildings.

Background  

As part of the reconfiguration of the school estate, the local authority opted in 2009 for a phased shutdown of Llanedeyrn High, which was serving a mixed community, including large disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Llanedeyrn stopped new intakes in 2010. Some pupils from the area’s primary schools instead began enrolling at Llanishen and Cardiff High Schools. However, the presence of the large and growing St Teilo’s Church in Wales school in the Llanedeyrn area offered an opportunity to deliver secondary education to local youngsters on their own doorstep and to create a completely modern learning environment.

learners walkingTraditionally St Teilo’s drew its pupils from faith-based primary schools over a wide area of the city but also offered places to other pupils whose parents wanted to send them to a denominational secondary school. These ‘open’ places normally accounted for up one third of the total intake.

St Teilo’s pupil numbers had been increasing steadily for a number of years and the school, which first opened in 1966, was forced to erect eight demountable buildings in order to cope. Said assistant head teacher Ian Loynd;

“we were bursting at the seams.”

The solution agreed was that a brand new St Teilo’s would be built on what were then the playing fields of Llanedeyrn High School. With room for 1,440 pupils, this new building would have enough permanent capacity for many local Llanedeyrn youngsters to enrol at the thriving denominational school.

At the same time it was decided that the newly-created Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Edern -  which had been housed temporarily at Ysgol Gyfun Glan Taf in Llandaff North - would move into the building vacated by St Teilo’s. This would then be modernised to provide a permanent home for the Welsh-medium learners.

The New School

The new St Teilo’s boasts a host of modern facilities and is arguably among Wales’ most advanced schools in terms of its ICT equipment.

It is designed along a central ‘street’ linked to all classrooms and other facilities, which means that the 100-strong teaching staff has easy access to sophisticated educational resources in every subject. It includes 10 fully-equipped labs, a design technology area complete with 3D printers, indoor sports facilities and dance and fitness studios.
In addition to five fixed IT suites, there are no fewer than 600 mobile devices, which pupils can use anywhere in the fully wi-fi enabled building.

Every classroom has an advanced  projector system with integrated speakers, as well as video cameras that teachers can use to film lessons for later reference or for the benefit of absent pupils. Each classroom also has a visualiser that enables teachers to project any classroom activity onto a large screen so avoiding problems with pupils crowding around to view experiments or other practical demonstrations.

The building is also highly energy efficient and has a distinctive curved frontage designed to deflect traffic noise from the adjacent A48M motorway. learners walking

Pupils themselves were involved in designing some aspects of the interior layout, including the installation of ‘open plan’ toilets where they said they would feel safer.

During construction, Cardiff-based contractors Wilmott Dixon employed local labour as far as possible and 85% of sub-contractors were from South Wales as well as 85% of suppliers. Pupils also had the opportunity for supervised visits to the site to see the structure taking shape.

Rachel Smith, Schools Programme Development Manager for the City of Cardiff Council explained that the project represented a major organisational challenge. She said:

“The new building was fairly straightforward but the fact that we were closing one school and moving two others made it quite a complicated project.  Moving was always going to be hair-raising. There was a lot of concern about it being done on time and we had to do it during the wettest summer for generations. Overall it went very well though.”

Phase one of the project involved a 68-week contract to build the school and install some outdoor sports facilities. However the bulk of the recreational facilities, which include all-weather football, rugby, hockey, basketball, tennis and athletics pitches will be laid after Llanedeyrn High finally closes in summer 2014 and the site is cleared.

The Change

St Teilo’s has been accommodating increased demand by raising its annual intake of pupils from 180 to 240 and has been increasing its staff numbers gradually over the past four years to the current 130, of whom 100 are teachers.

A year 9 group of 43 pupils from Llanedeyrn High transferred en bloc to the new St Teilo’s when it opened its doors in September 2013, although this followed months of transition activities including site visits and an away day for pupils from the respective schools to get to know each other.

Ian Loynd explained that some Llanedeyrn parents were concerned about the change initially because local children did not have the automatic right to go to St Teilo’s, but he added that the school sought to reassure them by designating catchment areas of four local primaries – Bryn Celyn, Glyncoed, Llanedeyrn and Springwood - within the criterion for admission.

playgroundBy gradually increasing the total number of pupils coming from outside its traditional ‘faith’ background, St Teilo’s has also altered the economic profile of youngsters attending the school. Five years ago only 11% of its pupils qualified for free school meals, now the figure is 26%.

This has raised greater issues with levels of literacy and numeracy among new arrivals and the school has introduced various interventions to tackle this increased challenge. Moreover the introduction of a biometric cashless system in the new school has anonymised those claiming free school meals, which in turn has boosted the take-up rate for the meal entitlement from 50% to 90%.

Despite the dramatic physical change taking place, the new school has succeeded in maintaining its educational standards. The assistant head teacher commented:

“We are now truly a comprehensive, because we are serving some of the richest and the poorest parts of Cardiff.  In four years we have had a vast amount of change but we are still on track. Our performance against similar schools remains good or excellent. Our Estyn inspection this year reported that we were ‘good’ in all areas, which demonstrates that we have coped well with the change.”