Agenda item

Chepstow School Update

To receive a position report on Chepstow School, as part of the 21st Century Schools Programme.


The Chief Officer introduced his briefing note, drawing member’s attention to the key points:


·         Condition of the building ~ The 21st Century Schools Programme is fossed on providing sustainable buildings for the future, i.e. net zero carbon.  Despite some works being undertaken at Chepstow School, the building is not energy efficient and significant work is required to bring it to the standard expected for a 21st Century school.


·         Capacity ~ The current capacity is 1282 places, with 738 pupils on roll resulting in 544 surplus places – 42%. It is unlikely that numbers will change dramatically over the next 6 or 7 years with no significant growth through live births or housing development expected. The school is also currently seeing a movement of pupils to Wyedean, whilst the Headteacher and Chepstow School have worked closely with the primary schools in the cluster to encourage a greater number of children to transition to Chepstow.


·         Work will commence in the next 12 months to look at primary and secondary education in the whole Chepstow area to ensure that the education estate is fit for purpose and delivers value for money. 


The chair thanked the officer for his update and invited questions from the committee, as follows:


Member Challenge: 


·         Do we know if the costs of updating the building to meet the required sustainability standard are going to exceed the cost of a new building and when would any decision be made?  Can you clarify the band funding rates referred to in the note?


You are right and this has been shown with the other two schools, so a detailed survey is needed to ascertain whether the building can tolerate that level of renewal. The band funding intervention rate for next time is not something I’m currently sighted on at the moment, as it’s still being worked through, so we’ll await clarity and update you when we have this.


·      I appreciate the focus is on developing Abergavenny School at the moment, but I am pleased to see that work is being undertaken to put Chepstow on a position to be able to bid for that band C funding when it becomes available, recognising it’s a long way off in 2024-25. I’m delighted to see the improvements that have been made throughout the summer to enhance the learning environment with new lighting and reducing the carbon footprint.  We hope that despite budgets being stretched, that we can continue the investment in the school. My question is what more can be done now so that Chepstow students receive equal learning environment standards as their peers? 


·      We are always reviewing capital finance available to us but it’s always a balance in terms of meeting the needs of all schools but we will continue to see what scope there is to continue to improve the school, that is something we can commit to.


·      I also would like to suggest a survey of pupils leaving primary school to see why they are choosing Wyedean rather than Chepstow.


A survey would be a good idea to understand the challenges. Chepstow is one of the smallest clusters, much smaller than Abergavenny for example. Some of the messages we hear anecdotally is that the opposite occurs 20 miles north in Monmouth with English students wanting to join, but asking the parents is a good idea as a survey could provide a more quantative evidence base upon which to draw conclusions.


·         The report refers to looking at the primary school condition also, given that there are still portable buildings being used, recognising that would depend on available capital funding.


I take on board your point. It may be that the cost of replacing the portable building may be too great, but we can see if there are any section 106 monies or other funding streams that could be used to make improvements.


·         The brief suggest pupil numbers are expected to remain the same, but with proposed housing developments at High Beech roundabout and also at Sedbury, would it be worth discussing this with the Forest of Dean and have you taken full account of future housing developments along the border?


This is a good question. Unfortunately, we can’t take account of development in England and similarly our own schools that border neighbouring Welsh authorities, but we are aware there may be knock on implications in terms of fewer of our residents sending children across the border given the increased demand for schools where development is taking place, so we will ensure we are aware of this and take account of it in that regard.


Chair’s Conclusion:


I’d like to thank the officer for the update on this issue.  The focus of Welsh Government on the net zero carbon is noteworthy and whilst we recognise the costs of retrofitting the school, we must commend you on the improvements made so far which have been very impressive. We would like to see ongoing investment in the school, given that 2024-25 is some time away and current pupils need to benefit. We understand the capacity issues, being a border school and that there are limitations as to what we can do about that. We feel a questionnaire would be helpful to gain some quantative data on reasons rather than relying on hearsay. The report has been very useful, and we will look to revisit this later in in 2022.



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