Alarmed no doubt by the sheer ferocity of opposition to its mad plan to close all sixth forms in the county, Ceredigion council goes into pass-the-buck mode and comes up with the very surprising claim that it didn’t write the review containing this insane proposal. As everyone had been led to assume.
The ‘don’t blame us’ assertion is slipped into one of a sheaf of replies to questions posed by Frankly Speaking.
I’m told: “When you state ‘the council says’, please note that the review has been carried out on behalf of the council and not by the council itself.”
Oh, really? And why has the council kept this up its sleeve for so long? Presumably because it would have liked to take the credit for a strategy now totally discredited. So who did write it?
The authors, we’re told, are two former head teachers - Huw Foster Evans, ex-head at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrexham, and Geraint Rees, formerly of Ysgol Plasmawr, Cardiff.
Just that. The answer begs questions of obvious public interest but, this being Ceredigion council, nothing is volunteered.
How much did the council have to pay for the Evans/Rees review?
Was the full council involved in the decision to commission an external review, including its cost, or were these decisions taken by the cabinet alone?
Did the authority ever consider doing the work itself, thereby, presumably, saving the taxpayer quite a lot of money?
Three days after seeking answers, I’m told my inquiry is “being considered”, but I must wait another three days for a response.
Earlier, the authority had accused me of inaccuracy in a piece a fortnight ago laying bare the potentially devastatingly damaging effects on post-16 students if it closes all sixth forms.
It is of course a plan that, at a stroke, would seriously diminish, and impoverish, the scope of learning currently on offer at Ceredigion’s comprehensive schools.
Instead, there could be a single so-called ‘centre of excellence’, probably in Aberaeron, posing a very likely insuperable problem for students living north of Aberystwyth, who would be faced with organising (or more likely not) their own transport for round-trips of up to 60 miles.
As even the council recognises, this inept blueprint would throw a grenade into Ceredigion’s post-16 organisation and be seen as threatening job-security and staff morale, as well as being bad environmentally because involving increased travelling for staff and students.
So what is the council’s complaint? I wrote: “This insane proposal, waved through by the county council’s malleable cabinet, basically offers two choices, both unacceptable. Close some sixth forms. Or the whole lot.”
Not so, I’m told in an unsigned email from the authority’s press office. I’m chided for not mentioning a feasibility study schools have been told to carry out, looking at, yes, closing all the sixth forms. Effectively, therefore, looking at betraying up-and-coming potential sixth formers, the pupils teachers have been nurturing, A-levels and universities in mind.
Yes, the council complains, but you didn’t mention the other option we have our eye on – that of “developing the current situation”. And what would that look like?
It would mean post-16 provision continuing, for the time being, at all six schools. But it would see current school governors “surrendering… post-16 responsibilities to a strategic board”. Whether such a board would be elected or not is unknown, the council admits. But this body “could, over time, recommend a reduction in the number of sites and what is provided at each site”. In other words, all sixth-forms could be axed.