The council are looking into ways to use secondary schools to house ‘local hubs’ to support permanent and ‘hot desk’ accommodation for council officers.
Councils across Wales report to the Welsh Government about the uptake of school places, showing which ones are over and undersubscribed.
The latest figures published by Wrexham County Borough showed that the overall percentage of surplus places their schools is 14%. The level for primary schools is 9% and at secondary level it is 21%.
The Welsh Minister for Education and Skills expects has set a target of 10% overall, so Wrexham is currently missing it by 4%. Further to this the Welsh Minister for Education and Skills also wrote to councils telling them that if any or both figures are over 20% they need to ‘develop strategies in order to bring these figures to below 15% by 2015’.
The projected figures, which is based of current data and future predictions via birthrates and the like, says in 2015 Wrexham’s stats will likely be Primary 5.1%, Secondary 24% and Overall 13.1%. Obviously the figure there growing from 21 to 24% – not reducing to 15%!
The council reports “The requirement to achieve the target of a reduction to 15% will mean the management of 735 school places in Wrexham. To express this in another way, this would equate to 24 classrooms being used for another purpose”.
With any demand changes it follows through the system, so current high primary demand will result in higher secondary demand in the future as children get older. Due to this Wrexham council are looking into alternative temporary use of space.
Thus the proposals to create ‘hubs’ to allow public sector community services to operate from them to use the space more efficiently.
Leader of the Wrexham Council Cllr Neil Rogers said “We get penalised for empty spaces and we want to remove all costs associated with these surplus places”.
“We want to work with the stakeholders, that is to say the headteachers, the staff and the governors’ parents of our young people. Its a challenge to all local authorities, as the birthrate fell 15 years ago and there is a lag before issues show themselves. The message from the Minister is loud and clear, we need to address this issue we are facing.”
He went on to explain how buildings can open at different times, often not used for hours at a time, which is a “poor use of resources”. It was suggested that such buildings could be hired saying “For example our partners at North Wales Police could want to hold a surgery and therefore could use the building.”
Another suggestion is “Where primary school places are in short supply, temporary solutions making use of secondary school places will be considered. Any temporary measure would need to be addressed permanently in the longer term as secondary places begin to be in shorter supply”, however the hot desk ‘hubs’ are referred to as a ‘immediate priority’.
The full document to be put before the councils Executive Board can be viewed here.