Page last updated at 13:55 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Minister approves sixth form plan

Artist impression of Coleg Llandrillo
An artist' impression of part of the new 3.5m new sixth form site at Coleg Llandrillo

Proposals to close a Denbighshire town's sixth forms have been approved by the education minister.

Jane Hutt AM is supporting the local authority's decision to close the sixth forms at both Rhyl High School and Blessed Edward Jones School in Rhyl.

All post-16 education will be transferred to a new £3.5m site linked to Llandrillo College under the plans.

Teachers union NASUWT said the decision "flies in the face of the wishes of staff, pupils and parents".

Earlier this month, more than 40 teachers at Rhyl High School staged a one-day strike over the closure plans.

At the time of the strike, teachers union NASUWT said it was worried the changes would remove pupil choice and put jobs at risk.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the teachers who took strike action received tremendous support from the community for doing so.

Canon John Glover, chair of Rhyl High School, Huw Evans OBE, principal Coleg Llandrillo Cymru, Mark Edwards, head of Rhyl High School.
The Rhyl Sixth and Coleg Llandrillo Rhyl will extend and improve opportunities available for all young people in the area
Huw Evans, Coleg Llandrillo principal (pictured centre)

He added that members at Blessed Edward Jones were poised to take strike action.

"The minister may see this as a green light for the Coleg Llandrillo plans but it is a red light for educational choice and 16-19 provision."

Rex Phillips, NASUWT Wales organiser said he feared the decision could "signal the death knell" for school-based sixth-forms, not just in Denbighshire but across Wales.

"This decision seems to be more about providing shiny new facilities at Coleg Llandrillo than providing a choice for the pupils in Rhyl," he said.

The new facility will be known as the Rhyl Sixth and facility improvements at Llandrillo College will be funded with a £3.4m grant from the assembly government.

It will be due to move to a new £3.5m centre on the college's Rhyl campus in late 2010.

The minister took her decision following a three-week consultation period when local people were invited to submit their views on the practical aspects and timing of the implementation of the change.

'Extensive choice'

Ms Hutt said: "The development of the "Rhyl Sixth" will be an exciting facility for post-16 learners in the Rhyl area.

"With the construction of new facilities, pupils will have an extensive choice of study options, both vocational and academic, in a convenient location, and in modern buildings.

"I believe that young people in Rhyl will identify strongly with the Rhyl Sixth and aspire to become part of this brand new learning environment."

Denbighshire council began consulting on the proposals in February 2008.

The council's leader, councillor Hugh Evans, who is also the cabinet lead member for lifelong learning, said the council was aware that some staff were concerned at the proposals but there was a need for "radical changes".

"We and the governing bodies will continue to engage constructively with all stakeholders over the coming months as the proposals take shape," he said.

Llandrillo College principal, Huw Evans, said: "The Rhyl Sixth and Coleg Llandrillo Rhyl will extend and improve opportunities available for all young people in the area and will bring considerable benefit to the local population."

Ann Jones, AM for Vale of Clwyd, welcomed the decision and said both schools had experienced "difficulties".

"I hope this can be a fresh start for students in Rhyl with an improved career and education service," she said.

"I understand the concerns around the faith issue but am encouraged that arrangements for the change around will be made at a local level. This should help those involved find a solution."

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