Frequently Asked Questions
The Council and the 21st Century Schools Team have a history of delivering innovative and transformational projects as part of the 21st Century Schools Programme.
The 21st Century Schools Team has collated a list of potential queries around developing and consulting on proposals, based on previous experience in the form of an ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQs) as below.
The Process and Decision-Making Bodies
What is the 21st Century Schools Programme?
The 21st Century Schools and Colleges programme is a major, long-term, strategic capital investment programme which aims to create a generation of 21st century schools in Wales
Is there a legal process that must be followed?
The Council must follow Statutory guidance issued by Welsh Government as set out in the School Organisation Code 2018, unless a proposal is exempt.
Where an exemption applies, this will be clearly stated in the Consultation Documentation.
Where an exemption applied, the Council will consult using its own Consultation and Engagement framework to support the decision-making process.
Does this process differ from school to school?
Based on the nature of the proposal, the process being followed can differ dependent on whether the Statutory Guidance under the School Organisation Code 2018 applies.
What are the different functions of Scrutiny and Cabinet as part of this process?
When we bring forward a proposal, our Education Scrutiny Committee initially reviews and endorse recommendations before a proposal is brought before Cabinet to consider whether to progress it any further. This is done at multiple stages, from initial conception, to approve progression to Outline Business Case to Welsh Government, to gain permission to consult and to report back the findings from the consultation process with a view to gain final approval to progress to planning application stage.
How is Welsh Government involved in the process?
Any proposal must receive Ministerial approval at outline business case stage prior to any consultation exercises.
Welsh Government have two panels which meet every other month.
- Business Case Scrutiny Group
- Business Case Investment Panel
The remit of each panel slightly differs, but involves robust consideration of the Strategic, Financial, Economical, Commercial and Management Cases for investment.
Until these panels are satisfied with a proposals, it cannot progress to the next stage.
Once the consultation and engagement process is completed, subject to Cabinet and Planning approval, a Full Business Case is then submitted for further scrutiny and review. Again, this needs to progress through both Welsh Government panels, to demonstrate the Council are following good practice, will provide value for money and deliver on its promises.
Has the final decision on the proposal already been taken?
No final determination on any proposal is made until it has progressed through a consultation process and the planning application process.
As outlined above, proposals are based on a preferred way forward as identified in an options appraisal. The various stages of the decision making process and the feedback from stakeholders helps shape proposals and the innovative methods for delivery.
What is being proposed?
Through the 21st Century Schools in Wales programme the Council is making is a significant, long-term and strategic capital investments to improve our school buildings
Proposals are outlined in full in the Consultation Documentation produced for that specific proposal.
Where can I find all the documentation?
Documentation on all proposals is available electronically here
Information can also be made available in other formats, languages and in hard copy on request. Please contact us on 01443 864817 or email 21stCenturySchools@caerphilly.gov.uk to arrange this.
How did you come up with the proposals?
There are a number of factors taken into consideration when putting together proposal and prioritising projects to take forward. These range from considering current pupil numbers, surplus places, future projections, the condition of the buildings, curriculum need and Welsh Government initiatives. It is important to look at an overall approach to improving the educational estate, which includes looking at whether other funding routes are more suitable, such as the Capital Maintenance Programme.
A School Strategy Board meets regularly to discuss proposals, prior to brining them before Education Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet for approval to progress.
How did you come up with the options in the first place?
The Council utilises an Options Framework approach as prescribed by Welsh Government, to identify the ways in which the Council can deliver their objectives in relation to improving schools. This process considers the widest possible number of feasible options, focusing on the following key dimensions: scope, service solution, service delivery, implementation and funding.
A cross-departmental working group consisting of representatives from the 21st Century Schools Team, Education Directorate, Sport and Leisure, Inclusion Services, Property Services, Finance and Health and Safety is then established to:
- Prepare and appraise a longlist of options
- Evaluate and score each option as to the extent to which each option meets the investment objectives and critical success factors identified and weighted as priority areas by the Council.
- Discount or carry forward options for further consideration in the shortlist based on the preliminary analysis and scoring to identify viable options.
- Recommend a preferred way forward which will form the basis for the consultation exercise
It is this recommended preferred way forward that then forms the basis of the proposal that we take forward as an outline business case to Welsh Government and undertake the consultation exercises against.
Who is paying for it?
All 21st Century Schools proposals are jointly funded by the Welsh Government and the Council.
Funding has already been set aside for the Council's share of the capital costs of the project.
Depending on the nature of the proposal, the intervention rate can change, this means sometimes the Council pays 35% of the costs and at others 25%, Welsh Government pick up the remainder.
Full details of what is termed the intervention rate can be found in the Consultation Documentation specific to each proposal.
Consultation and Engagement
Who are you consulting with and why?
Statutory legislation via the School Organisation Code 2018 prescribes a list of consultees which must be advised of the proposal. These include pupils, parents, staff, Welsh Ministers, Estyn and local Councillors (the full list is available in the Consultation Document)
Where the code does not apply, to enable transparent, balanced and open decision making, the Council mirrors the equivalent process as outlined in Section 3 of the School Organisation Code which aligns with the appropriate ‘Spectrum of Engagement’ outlined in the Council’s Consultation and Engagement Framework 2020-2025
How will I know that there is a consultation being undertaken?
If you are one of the listed consultees, you will be contacted via letter or email to advise you that the proposal is live.
The Council will also use social media to raise awareness and work closely with the relevant schools.
Can anyone send a response and how will responses be recorded?
Everyone can send a response and this will be recorded using an internal monitoring and tracking system.
Who will see my responses to the consultation?
All responses received during the consultation period will be recorded and summarised in a Consultation/Community Engagement Report.
Cabinet members will be provided with copies of all the responses received within the consultation period and in their original format as part of the decision making process.
How is the consultation being carried out and when?
The Council will publish a series of documents to support the consultation for the proposal which includes a Consultation Document, an Integrated Impact Assessment and links to provide your responses via online form, email or post.
The standard consultation period runs for 42 days as prescribed by the School Organisation Code 2018. We sometimes have proposals that are not subject to the Statutory requirements of the Code, but we have taken the decision locally to mirror Stage 1 for all our proposals, which means we will seek the views of consultees for every proposal we progress to enable open and transparent decision making.
When we open a consultation, we publicise it by notifying the consultees as listed in the School Organisation Code 2018, in addition we provide information to the local schools and utilise Social Media.
Our Consultation Dates are clearly outlined in our Consultation Documentation and we clearly state how comments can be returned.
How will you make sure that pupils know what’s happening and get involved?
Views of children form an important part of the process. The 21st Century Schools Team in Caerphilly will ensure that when bringing forward any proposal, suitable arrangements are made to consult and involve pupils throughout the process and post occupancy.
A child friendly version of the Consultation Document will be produced and any feedback from pupils and the School Council will be included in the documentation forwarded to Cabinet for consideration once the consultation period has ended.
What will happen after the consultation period ends?
The Consultation/Community Engagement Report will be presented for initial review and endorsement at Education Scrutiny Committee, with final approval to sitting with Cabinet.
At this stage, Cabinet members can decide whether to proceed with the proposal, make changes to the proposal or not to proceed with the proposal.
The Consultation/Community Engagement Report will be published on the Council's website and consultees as prescribed by the School Organisation Code 2018 will be notified of the publication by letter/email.
Construction and Development
Is a planning application needed to build as proposed?
A separate Planning Application Process will be carried out by the Authority’s Property Services Department subject to the final determination being made and Cabinet approval to progress this proposal. Details of all applications can be found on the Council’s Website when the process is live.
When would building start on site?
This will be subject to Full Planning Application approval
Will local trades people and resources be used to build the new school?
Projects include Community Benefits and Social Value as Core Requirements and are scored as part of the Quality evaluation. It sets out a number of targets around local targeted recruitment & training, supply chains, community & education initiatives and environmental matters such as minimising waste and reducing energy consumption.
During the build, how will the site be kept safe and secure?
Site security will be the responsibility of the contractor who is awarded to work. Appropriate Risk Assessments will be undertaken and monitored by the Authority.
What will be the impact on traffic, car parking, congestion and safety?
It is always the intention of the Council to provide a system of transport that seeks to ensure pupils can safely and comfortably access their education. A number of ‘Safe Travel’ routes, as far as reasonably practicable, such as lighting and designated footpaths.
What will be the impact on the environment?
Protecting habitats, biodiversity and reducing pollution is a matter of course throughout the contract period and relevant surveys will be undertaken and included within the procurement documentation.
Will the school be eco-friendly?
Decarbonisation is high on the Council's agenda and embedded into the planning and development of all proposals.
One of the critical success factors for a proposal is to ensure a ‘Low carbon, low energy eco-friendly environment’.
What will happen to any buildings that will no longer be in use?
Any building surplus to requirements will be disposed of in line with the relevant guidance, this maybe via demolition, reutilisation or sale. Any monies generated through this process will be reinvested back into the programme.
Will the normal school day be disrupted during the build?
The Council will work with the contractor to ensure there would be minimal disruption to the daily operations of the existing school cohort until the site is ready to be accommodated at which time learners would be supported through any transplantation process.
Full Risk assessments will be undertaken.
How long will it take to build?
Project timelines for the build phase differ dependent on the nature of the scheme. Full details will be made available in the planning documentation.
When will the new school open?
The anticipated completion date will differ dependant on the proposal.
Full details can be found in the consultation documentation relevant to each individual proposal.
What will the name of the school be?
This will be subject to a governing body decision by the school
Will the school uniform change?
This will be subject to a governing body decision by the school
What will be the impact on the pupils and staff of the current school(s)?
The Council will work with the relevant parties to ensure that there is minimal impact on the delivery of educational provision and the day to day running of the school.
Will the start and end times for the school stay the same?
This would be at the discretion of the Head Teacher
Will the Governing Body change?
Dependant on the nature of the proposal, changes would be planned carefully so that the school leadership and governance are disrupted to a minimum, to minimise any negative impact on educational outcomes.
Will I need to apply for my child to attend the new school?
Where pupils are already in attendance, there is no need to reapply even where amalgamations are planned. They will be automatically enrolled under the new school.
Will the current catchment and admission arrangements for the school remain the same?
This information will be contained within each individual consultation document.
The number of catchment pupils that can be accommodated will be managed to ensure other schools in the area are not adversely affected.
Will the travel arrangements for pupils getting to school alter?
The Authority will adhere to its Active Travel Policy in provide transport to each individual school as required.
What facilities and equipment will be in the new school?
All proposals will have facilities that provide a stimulating teaching and learning environment, some examples of these include:
- multi-functional, size compliant main classrooms
- main assembly hall
- food technology space,
- library and IT space
- outside learning space
However, dependant on the nature of the proposal this may vary.
Will the community be able to use any school facilities?
Our aspiration and a pre-requisite for Welsh Government investment, is to commit to making assets available to support educational need, community use, promote community resilience and contribute to meeting several Local Authority Strategies.
To optimise the use of the new infrastructure and resources, as part of the proposal, flexibility will be built into the school suited to local demand.
The usage of sporting facilities will also be considered for the community at suitable times in keeping with the curriculum timetable.
Will there be a fee to use the school facilities?
This will be dependent on the type of provision available.
The FAQs are designed to be generic and give a brief overview and it is advisable that the FAQs are read in conjunction with the main consultation documentation for each individual proposal.