A long-delayed consultation has started on a potential shake-up of sixth-form education in Arfon.
Councillors voted in March to discuss the future of post-16 education in north Gwynedd – though their plans were put on hold due to the COVID pandemic.
Gwynedd Council says it will hold an informal ”open conversation” with pupils, parents, staff and governors on how to ensure the best possible system.
But critics have described the public consultation as a ”waste of money” – and have urged the council not to close any school classes in the area.
Garem Jackson, the county council’s head of education, said there had been no major changes to the local setup for some time.
He added: ”With the landscape of post-16 education changing across Wales, it is therefore timely for us to take a step back to see if the current situation fully meets the needs of our young people.”
”By conducting an open conversation, we are keen to see what aspects of the current system are working well and what we can do better to achieve an innovative system that offers the best for all learners.”
”Above all, we want to find an answer to the question ‘What needs to be done to ensure that this system in Gwynedd enables all our learners to fulfil their potential?”
There are currently six sixth-forms in Arfon, including Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen in Caernarfon, Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen in Bethesda and Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor.
In the rest of the county, sixth form provision exists only in the Bala and wider Penllyn areas – while other pupils in Dwyfor and Meirionydd attend Coleg Meirion Dwyfor in Pwllheli and Dolgellau.
Earlier this year, council officials stressed they had made no final decisions and they would not be financially driven.
But Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) accused the local authority of ”wasting money on another consultation” despite ”complaining about a lack of funding and cutting services”.
At the time, the pressure group suggested looking at a move towards more e-learning for Years 12 and 13, as has happened in neighbouring Ceredigion, and more recently, on a much wider scale during the pandemic.
The council says while face-to-face meetings can’t be held for now, it’s planning a number of virtual meetings in the coming weeks to discuss and brainstorm ideas for future provision.
Councillor Cemlyn Rees Williams, the cabinet member for education said the ”landscape for post-16 education in Wales is changing”.
”Our vision is to have a post-16 education system that truly meets the needs of all our learners. Background, geography and circumstances should not limit our young people’s choice or future path.”
”We need an education system that combines educational, vocational, technical and academic needs that equip our young people with key skills for the world of work.”
”Employer expectations are changing with much greater emphasis on areas such as digital services, the green energy sector and food and agriculture. It will therefore be essential that the future post-16 education system prepares our young people for the opportunities that will emerge from all core sectors.”