Official Opening for Ysgol Bae Baglan

Kirsty Williams AC/AM, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Councillor Alan Thomas OBE, Leader of Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council

Education Secretary visiting the school

Ysgol Bae Baglan is being officially opened by Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams and Neath Port Talbot Council Leader Ali Thomas.

They are unveiling a commemorative plaque at the first purpose-built English-medium all-through school in Wales.

Equal joint investment between the Welsh Government's 21st Century Schools and Education Programme and Neath Port Talbot Council's own funds meant that the site comprised the biggest single investment in school infrastructure in the history of the county borough.

Since opening its doors to more than 1,500 pupils aged 3-16 last September, the £40M school has already chalked up some major achievements.

The school's innovative use of technology to enhance teaching and learning and collaborative approaches has meant that Ysgol Bae Baglan was awarded Microsoft Global Showcase status in September 2016 - the only all-through school in the UK to achieve this. 

Recently it was announced that following a global Skypeathon event where schools across the world used Skype link conversations to record virtual travel miles, Ysgol Bae Baglan not only covered the most miles of all schools in the UK but more than any school globally - contributing over 5% of the total virtual miles covered by participating schools. 

Pupils at the school have also demonstrated their entrepreneurial skills by winning the regional round of the Young Business Dragons award with their sports-focussed business ideas. 

Successful teamwork has also been shown on the sporting fields with Year 9 and 11 rugby teams reaching and, in the case of Year 9, winning the Ospreys plate competition. Netball across all age groups has also been particularly strong, however all sports have had impressive participation figures as well as representatives at district, region and even national levels. 

The facilities are also well-used by the local community outside of school hours, with over 55 organisations holding language workshops, drama clubs, exhibitions and events at the site, as well as making use of the sporting facilities.

Ysgol Bae Baglan was also recently announced as a finalist in the 'Design Through Innovation' category of the prestigious 2017 Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards, Wales as one of only three shortlisted projects, alongside Cardiff University's CUBRIC and HMP Berwyn, Wrexham. 

Delivered on time and to budget, the build was managed by the in-house project management team of the Council's Property and Regeneration section, who worked closely with contractors Bouygues UK throughout the construction phase to engage local businesses in the opportunities afforded by such a major project.

Contracts totalling over £12 million were awarded to local businesses based in the Neath Port Talbot and Swansea Bay area while a further £16m in contracts went to companies based elsewhere in Wales. In addition more than 300 people from Neath Port Talbot worked on the project, including 146 who had been previously unemployed; 73 trainees were involved in the project, including 50 apprentices; and 44 people gained qualifications as a direct result of the scheme.

Both parties are now building on this success with further jointly-funded developments soon to begin in the County Borough as part of Neath Port Talbot's Schools Improvement Programme and the Welsh Government's 21st Century Schools Programme.

Earlier this year Councillors approved plans for three new-build school projects worth nearly £50m, with construction due to start this month on all three projects, ready for occupation in September 2018. In addition, a £7.5m investment in a new build primary school for the Briton Ferry area has also received funding approval.  It is intended that this, too, will open in September 2018.

Speaking at the Ysgol Bae Baglan opening ceremony, Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ali Thomas OBE said: "Ysgol Bae Baglan has raised the bar for education provision in the county borough and pupils are already benefitting from the opportunities offered by this fantastic new facility".

"Working alongside the Welsh Government, the Council's strategic schools improvement programme, 'Better Schools Brighter Prospects' is working to transform the learning and teaching environments available to pupils and educators across Neath Port Talbot. By developing facilities fit for 21st Century learners, we will give our young people the best possible opportunities to achieve their full potential".

"As well as its pupils, Ysgol Bae Baglan has also provided a huge boost to the local economy throughout its construction and is now becoming a focal point for local community and sports activities."

Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams said: "This wonderful new £40m school is the biggest single education investment for the county to date. When you look around this fantastic site it is evident this has been money well-spent.
"It means children and young people in the area have the most modern environment available for their education and realising their ambitions. 
"This project is not only benefiting the teachers and children, but has provided training and work experience opportunities for the local community, and jobs for local supply chains.  
"This school will also be an invaluable community resource for sport and recreational activities for individuals, groups, clubs and societies to use and enjoy. This is another example of how we are continuing to invest in our schools and in the community".

Ysgol Bae Baglan Head teacher Mike Tate said: "The amalgamation of four schools into a new, all-through school was always going to be challenging but I have been impressed with the hard work and commitment of staff, pupils and parents to the process that has led to Ysgol Bae Baglan feeling like an established school very quickly."

"There are exciting times ahead with developments linked to the use of technology and I am proud to lead a 21st Century school in a fantastic 21st Century building. The impact of the building on learning is already evident and the role that it is playing in transforming the community that we serve is impressive."


More from Local