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QEd programme and 21st century schools programme update

We have recently been having discussions with the council's cabinet about the school estate and the impact of factors including budget pressures, the need to continually improve performance and the local development plan (LDP).

This work is at an early stage but it's clear that if we are to meet our aspirations for education we'll probably have to consider more radical options than have been on the table to date. 

As you know our QEd programme alongside the Welsh Government's 21st century schools programme have been focusing on:

  • Learning environments for children and young people aged from 3 to19 that will enable the successful implementation of strategies for school improvement and better educational outcomes;
  • Greater economy through better use of resources to improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the education estate and public service provision; and
  • A sustainable education system with all schools meeting a 21st century schools standard, and reducing the recurrent costs and carbon footprint.

Our strategic case for the first phase (Band A) was submitted in November 2011. The scale of investment was £51m, reflecting a local contribution of 50% and the programme was to be delivered by 2019/2020).
The priority investment schemes were identified through the following range of complementary objective criteria:

Standards (where there were specific concerns), risk, condition, specific suitability issues, landscape, basic need (where very clear shortfall in places such as WM), sufficiency (surplus places), viability (size), sustainability (future demographic trends) and deliverability (how readily it could be achieved). 

Almost all of the priority options identified through the extensive stakeholder engagement process have been delivered, and the remaining schemes in Band A are due for completion by 2018.

The robust basis of our programme has been repeatedly scrutinised by the Welsh Government and subject to their ultimate approval. They have continued to reflect the original mix of criteria but as with any plan it is not a static document - indeed, the whole programme has required successive reviews in the light of the changing Welsh Government timescales and financial parameters for the programme.  
As with any strategy it will also continue to evolve in the light of changing demands (demographic trends and condition and business continuity issues), political priorities and capital resourcing, and fresh opportunities (such as the LDP).

There remains a lack of clarity regarding the scale and nature of the future Welsh Government 21st century schools programme, however, we are now preparing to formulate appropriate options for consideration by cabinet for capital investment beyond Band A, and will over future months, be contacting schools to arrange site visits to assist with that process.

Please be assured that schools and their governing bodies will have a number of opportunities to shape the direction of travel as they have done in the past and that all future projects will continue to focus on standards, risk, condition, suitability, landscape, basic need, sufficiency, viability, sustainability and deliverability.

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