Modernising Education Programme Draft Strategy

Programme Overview

The Modernising Education Programme (MEP) is designed to deliver on the Local Authority’s School Modernisation and reorganisation aspirations. Since its inception in 2004, the MEP  has drawn widespread recognition for its strategic vision, transformational planning and impressive record of delivery. The achievements of the MEP are illustrated in the Transformation Journey attached at Appendix 3. The purpose of this document is to outline the strategy, objectives and principles established to direct the MEP’s future delivery.

In March 2010, the Welsh Assembly Government launched the 21st Century Schools Programme, a long-term investment programme which enables Welsh local authorities to provide learning environments fit for teaching and learning in the 21st Century. The first phase of investment (Band A) commenced in 2014 and represented a £1.4 billion investment over the five-year period ending in 2018/19.

Carmarthenshire’s preparations for the national 21st Century Schools Programme commenced in 2010 through an invitation by the Welsh Government (WG) to local authorities to submit a Strategic Outline Programme (SOP) for the modernisation of their whole schools’ estate, placed within four bands for investment (A-D), in order of priority according to most urgent need.

In 2010 a major review of the MEP was completed as part of the process of developing the County Council’s submission and the Authority’s Strategic Outline Programme (SOP) which identified the preferred option for programme delivery to implement on a local area basis.

Through the initial submission process Carmarthenshire’s Band A programme was approved at a value of £86.7 million (funded 50% by grant from WG and 50% from the Council’s own resources). Carmarthenshire’s Band A commenced in 2014/15 following approval of Band A projects as part of the MEP update in 2013.

Band A was updated in 2016 following a reassessment in line with the approved MEP investment criteria and the practicalities of delivery.
Three Band A projects (namely Dewi Sant, Laugharne and Rhydygors) have not been completed as a result of challenges such as public objection to preferred sites or complex statutory processes.

In May 2017 the WG confirmed its intention to progress with the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Band B Programme. Band B began in April 2019 and was expanded to include further education colleges and as such was renamed as the 21st Century Schools and Colleges Programme. This Programme was expected to see a further £2.3 billion investment in school and college infrastructure and was expected to run until 2024/2026.

In December 2017, Carmarthenshire’s Band B was approved at a value of £129.5 million. The Band B intervention rate is 65% grant for mainstream and 75% grant for Special Schools and Pupil Referral Units. Band B commenced in April 2019.

Several factors have impacted on the pace of development of Band B schemes e.g. scale and complexity of projects including required statutory procedures, Covid-19 pandemic and democratic decisions. The progress of schemes has also been impacted by unprecedented challenges in terms of construction sector costs increasing significantly due to the emergence from the pandemic and the impacts of rising inflation on budgets, particularly in capital projects, supply chain issues and rises in material costs. These factors have significant implications on MEP schemes which are currently in development.



Carmarthenshire’s MEP was approved by the County Council in November 2004 as our strategic investment and rationalisation plan to transform school provision across Carmarthenshire. The aim is to transform the network of nursery, primary and secondary schools into a strategically and operationally effective resource that meets current and future need for a school based and community focused education.

This is achieved (in collaboration with Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme) through developing and improving buildings, infrastructure and spaces that are appropriately located, designed, constructed or adapted to foster sustainable development for the people and communities of Carmarthenshire.

In line with the Local Authority’s responsibility to review the number and type of schools it has, and whether or not it is making the best use of resources and facilities, the MEP is reviewed regularly to ensure that flexibility is maintained so that changes can be incorporated when required in line with current educational circumstances. Despite being a number of years since the MEP was last reviewed, the culmination of a number of factors has determined that it would be prudent to review the programme and strategy now.

Post the Covid 19 pandemic, the authority has seen a number of demographic changes across the county, such as shifts in pupil numbers and parental preference when choosing schools etc. Understanding the needs of the local community is important in order to provide the right school within the right area. It has also become necessary to review the future design of school buildings to ensure compatibility with organisational requirements set during the pandemic and meets the needs in terms of ventilation / access to good air quality etc. Serious consideration must be given to the consequences faced by the global pandemic. Staff, pupils, and facilities have had to work much harder in order to create a viable, safe yet still nurturing teaching and learning environment, however moving forward buildings could be designed in such a way to take account of all of these factors in order to avoid this dramatic change in operational management again in the future should it be required.

In addition, it has become apparent that the authority has an aging stock in terms of school assets, where the condition of these buildings is also deteriorating, resulting in the need for substantial capital maintenance. Consideration must be given to how suitable the stock continues to be in terms of being able to provide facilities fit for the 21st Century to provide the best for our learners. With the implementation of the new curriculum, we must also ensure that our assets are able to enhance elements of the new curriculum such as sustainability, biodiversity and outdoor learning.

It has become clear that due to financial pressures there are a number of Carmarthenshire schools in significant deficit. This causes additional stress on school leaders and impacts on recruitment. Increasing construction costs result in elevated project costs which limits the funding available to progress and develop new schemes. UK building costs are continuing to experience an unprecedented spike arising from a combination of Covid-19, inflation and Brexit implications. This has impacted upon contractor labour capacity, as well as causing the inventory of available materials to diminish thus contributing to price hikes on core packages, such as timber, steel, and cement. However, cost is not the only issue and extended delivery times on materials have also been experienced which has had an equally adverse impact on project programmes.

In November 2022 the Welsh Government published guidance on Community Focused Schools, detailing aspirations for schools to:

  • build a strong partnership with families,
  • respond to the needs of their community and
  • collaborate effectively with other services.

Following this, further guidance was published in September 2023 on community engagement and how schools can maximise their role in securing educational, health and community developments, and how they can help to create, thriving, empowered and connected communities. The Local Authority is currently utilising Community Focused Grant to develop projects to help schools become more accessible to their communities. As such, moving forward consideration needs to be given as to how schools can be designed with the local community in mind.

Over the last couple of years, the Welsh Government have promoted the expansion of early years childcare and education in Wales through the expansion of the Childcare Offer and Flying Start programmes. The Childcare Offer for Wales provides 30 hours a week of funded early education and childcare for eligible working parents of three and four year olds for up to 48 weeks a year. The childcare available through Flying Start is for two to three year olds. It includes 12.5 hours a week, for 39 weeks of the year, of funded high-quality childcare and is being implemented through a phased approach. Consideration now needs to be given on whether facilities to be able to provide these services need to be included within new school builds, if provision is not available within the local area.

In contrast to the development of Bands A and B, in 2024 Welsh Government are introducing a new 9 year rolling programme of investment, which will help local authorities prioritise projects on need and achievability whilst also manging the expectations of stakeholders. This programme will help local authorities plan over a longer period and determine an appropriate project plan for each scheme, meaning that stakeholders can be updated at the relevant point in time rather than waiting in anticipation of when their project is likely to start. Moving forward and in collaboration with the Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, Carmarthenshire County Council can provide schools with 21st century facilities, through a carefully planned programme of re-organisation and investment.

The culmination of all of these factors means that the Local Authority can now undertake a holistic review of its MEP, ensuring that all key points are addressed suitably and effectively as part of the new strategy.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s aim is to ensure that all learners are provided with the best possible start in life, with facilities and opportunities that are fit for purpose for teaching and learning in the 21st Century, as well as being accessible to the community.