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Cwmcarn High School asbestos problem “not connected” to schools closure programme

Published in News at 09:34, Tuesday March 12th, 2013. Last updated at 10:16, Thursday August 1st, 2013

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The senior councillor responsible for education across Caerphilly County Borough has said problems with asbestos at Cwmcarn High School are unconnected with wider plans to close schools.

Under its 21st Century Schools programme, Caerphilly County Borough Council could close up to three comprehensive schools because of falling numbers.

Speculation has been mounting that because of the problems with asbestos at Cwmcarn, the school could be facing permanent closure.

Cllr Rhianon Passmore, said: “There is a lot of misinformation circulating in the community linking the Cwmcarn situation to the wider 21st Century Schools programme. I must stress that these are completely separate issues. The 21st Century Schools programme is a stand-alone programme involving all schools and is totally unconnected to the problems at Cwmcarn.

“There is no question about whether asbestos is present at the site. It is a known fact that there are large quantities of asbestos material throughout the building, but of most concern to us is the significant amount of asbestos debris present in the ceiling and roof voids as well as the heater cabinets.”

Cwmcarn High School was closed on October 12 last year after a report by Santia Asbestos Management Ltd asked Caerphilly Council to consider whether school buildings should be demolished because of widespread airborne asbestos. Since then, the school’s pupils have relocated to the former Coleg Gwent campus in Ebbw Vale.

But a report published by the Health and Safety Executive laboratory (HSL) has said the original findings by Santia may have been overstated. Another report by company Ensafe, commissioned by the school itself, found the decision by the council to close the school was “understandable” but not supported by any airborne fibre testing sample results.

Cllr Passmore has again defended the decision to close the school with the council drafting in an independent expert to make sense of the seemingly conflicting reports.

She said: “All concerned will be aware that there have been a number of reports and analysis carried out to date and we are currently awaiting the outcome of a new management survey at the school which will give us options for the future of the site.”

She added: “Our priority is also the safety, health and well-being of the pupils and staff and we make no apology for our swift and decisive decision to temporarily close the school site in light of the information that was presented to us back in October.”

According to local reports, more than 100 pupils have left the school since the asbestos scare in October.

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  • David Clements

    21st century schools – what's missing is mention of 3 schools closing to fund the construction and opening of a Welsh speaking secondary school.
    I don't want a Welsh speaking secondary school I want my kids taught in English.
    Im proud to be Welsh but lets face it teaching in Welsh isn't going to help them gain further education when its not their primary language. A Welsh speaking school isn't called for.
    Smaller class sizes means for a better pupil to teacher ratio which means a better education and better gcse results. If Cwmcarn, Risca, Newbridge, Oakdale, Pontllanfraith or Blackwood is targeted this council will have a big fight on their hands and we won't see a Labour council back in for a generation or two. It won't just affect the council elections either. There is an agender and the council have wasted a lot of time since October to come to a decision about how best to make the school safe. Pre fabs would cost less than the long day trips to Ebbw Vale. As voters whom this council REPRESENTS AND SERVES we will not allow school closures in Islwyn or Gwent. Especially in light of pay rise scandals!!

  • Ashamed of CCBC

    This entire fiasco serves only to demonstrate the incompetence of CCBC. The HSE stated early on that the CCBC decision to immediately close the school was appropriate given the information to hand in the Santia report. At that point CCBC should have immediately called in the HSE for a second opinion. (It appears that it was the Governors who insisted the HSE have access.)

    HSE is the 'gold-standard', an independent government agency. They gave the school the all clear, but CCBC chose to ignore the HSE findings and accept the Santia findings – at the cost of over one million to the tax-payer and what is no doubt unspeakable disruption to the school and all connected with it.

    It seem that contrary to the councillor's protestations, the real agenda of CCBC policy is to drag this out for as long as possible so that the uncertainty will push Cwmcarn School into a position from which it won't be able to recover. This is a disgrace given the fact that, according to Welsh Assembly Government data, it is less expensive to educate children at that school which is the top performing school in the county. I wish it were close enough for my children to go to!