THE head of modernising education at Denbighshire County Council has denied accusations that a consultation on faith-based education is just paying “lip service” to the views of parents.
Parents are currently being asked for their thoughts on plans which could see St Brigid’s School in Denbigh closed and merged with Rhyl Catholic secondary school Blessed Edward Jones at a new location.
Last week Jackie Walley, head of modernising education at the council, attended a meeting at St Brigid’s with parents of pupils there.
“At the meeting we were told it was a consultation,” said a parent who was there, but asked not to be named.
“But when one parent asked what would happen if all the parents at St Brigid’s did not want to merge, Jackie Walley said they will still go ahead so therefore it is not a consultation but merely lip service.”
Speaking to the Free Press last week, Ms Walley recalled the meeting: “I think the question was ‘if everybody in the audience said they didn’t want this would the proposals still go ahead?’
“And the answer was yes. It isn’t just one school we’re looking at, it’s about faith school secondary provision across the county.”
But she added: “We haven’t got a done deal, we haven’t got a plan. We are really listening.”
There could be £28.8 million available if a new school gets the go-ahead, thanks to a partnership between Denbighshire County Council, Welsh Government and the Catholic Diocese of Wrexham.
“If we do nothing that’s a huge opportunity missed,” said Ms Walley.
“One of the questions at the St Brigid’s meeting was ‘Why can’t we just have half the money?’.
“But it doesn’t work like that, we have to bid for it and reduce surplus places.”
Blessed Edward Jones currently has surplus places but St Brigid’s has a waiting list.
“We are really concerned that if we do nothing in either school there will be problems with the sustainability of both schools,” said Mrs Walley.
She said that the council is currently unable to deliver the full curriculum at either school because of “building issues”.
Lessons such as PE are cut short because pupils have to walk to the sports field.
“The consultation is about understanding why parents feel so passionate about St Brigid’s,” said Ms Walley.
“It’s about learning what’s good about both schools.”
She said that a number of new sites were under consideration, but that any new school would be in the north of the county as that’s where 65 per cent of the pupils from both schools come from.
But she added it was not definite that there would be a new school.
The consultation about the future of Denbighshire’s secondary faith-schools will end on January 29.
Council officers will then come up with proposals and take them to cabinet in either May or June before they are distributed to parents, staff and governors to give their feedback.