Crownbridge Special Day School
Crownbridge School Credit: Cwmbran Life

TORFAN Council will review how it provides for pupils with additional learning needs after having to extend a school built just 12 years ago. 

The extension to Crownbridge Special School in Cwmbran, that provides education for pupils with severe learning disabilities aged two to 19, has cost £12.3 million and is expected to open in December this year. 

The need for additional spaces at the school was accepted in 2020, just eight years after it was built. The new building to replace temporary classrooms will provide for 50 additional children, nearly doubling the capacity, from 80 when it opened in 2012, to 130. 

Colette Thomas, Labour councillor for Cwmbran Two Locks, asked at Torfaen Borough Council education scrutiny meeting if the 50 extra places would be sufficient as the original new build had proved “too small”. 

John Tushingham, the council’s resource and planning manager, said the school had been designed in line with the information available at the time but said: “It’s not an exact science and it’s not always easy to determine the level of special needs requirements.” 

But he said the council will also need to cater for pupils with additional needs in other schools. 

“We also need to look at the provision of additional learning needs provision, other than Crownbridge and make sure pupils get the right provision and make best use of resource basis to make sure they are getting the right type of help.” 

Steve Tong, the council’s head of access, said a review of resource bases in mainstream schools is being done this term and a new head of additional learning needs, will take up post in the autumn and look to ensure the council is providing the right support in the right locations. 

He said that is required before children move on to more specialist support. 

Director of education Andrew Powles said at present the council doesn’t have any additional learning needs provision for Welsh medium pupils but it will consider that, and if there is the possibility of funding available to support, its development, but could also consider regional arrangements with other Gwent councils in the interim. 

Committee members, who were considering a plan for investment in Torfaen schools under the Welsh Government’ Sustainable Communities for Learning programme, were told the Crownbridge extension, which was delayed in part due to rising construction costs, was funded through the earlier phases of the scheme when it was known as the 21st Century Schools programme.