DISCUSSIONS are taking place between councils in South East and Mid Wales to find a suitable site to build a joint Welsh-medium secondary school.

At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s Place scrutiny committee on Tuesday, January 30, councillors were given an update on long-term school building proposals.

In January 2022, the Welsh Government renamed the 21st Century Schools Programme to the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme.

This new scheme is supposed to allow councils more flexibility with the expectation that they produce a rolling programme of projects to work on for the next decade.

The report explains that projects submitted in years one to three are expected to reach full business case in that time scale.

Years four to six would see projects come forward that can be developed and need to go through a consultation process.

Projects in years seven to nine are pipeline projects.

The Welsh Government expects local authorities to review their rolling programme at least every three years.

A possible development for Blaenau Gwent from years four to six, from 2027 onwards, is a Welsh-medium secondary school.

Welsh medium primary school pupils from Blaenau Gwent currently go across the border into Torfaen to continue their education in Welsh at Ysgol Gymraeg Gwynllyw in Pontypool.

The report suggests that youngsters from Blaenau Gwent won’t be able to attend Gwynllyw from September 2028.

This is because Torfaen are seeking to develop more Welsh medium primary schools and would need the space for their own pupils.

Cllr David Wilkshire said: “The solution is to have our own (secondary) school.”

He asked if any discussions had already started with Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, Monmouthshire, and Powys County Council’s to work together on the project.

Education transformation manager, Joanne Mackay said: “We meet every half term at the moment.

“Merthyr, Powys and Monmouthshire are growing their (Welsh medium) primary provision as well.”

“It’s perhaps a bit of a national issue as we’re all doing the same thing.”

She explained that local authorities are all working to set up Welsh medium primary schools.

But the lack of Welsh medium secondary schools is creating a “bottleneck” with children leaving Welsh medium primary schools with nowhere to go to continue their education in Welsh.

Ms Mackay said: “We are looking at identifying a piece of land where we could develop provision that could serve all of us.”

Once a patch of land – convenient to all four councils – is found they would then “make representations” to the Welsh Government for funding to build the school.

Cllr Wilkshire said: “It’s wonderful to have a Welsh school but if we don’t have the teachers, we’re back to square one so we need to be mindful of that – it’s not as simple as it seems.”

Ms Mackay added that the Welsh Government was aware of this problem and were looking to develop more teachers that can work in Welsh.

Another long term project could be a new build secondary school in Brynmawr which is listed for 2027 onwards.

Cllr Jules Gardner who represents Brynmawr asked for some clarity on this proposal.

Ms Mackay said: “We’re looking at the best options be it part or full replacement there’s a lot of things to consider,”

The report will go on to be discuss by the Cabinet at a meeting in February.