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Schools plan a “non-starter” says pressure group

 
Created on 11/10/2020 @ 09:42
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By Elgan Hearn, Local Democracy Reporter

The whole plan of reorganising schools in the Llanfyllin area is a “non-starter”, according to Welsh Language pressure group, Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

They have asked Welsh Government Education minister Kirsty Williams MS to intervene in the Powys County Council  (PCC) school reorganisation process.

They believe that PCC would be breaking the Schools Organisation Code which gives a presumption against closing rural schools.

On September 29, councillors agreed to go ahead with a Programme Business Case for the reorganisation of the Llanfyllin catchment area.

This could see Ysgol Pennant Primary School in Pen-Y-Bont Fawr closed. PCC’s preferred option is that a new Welsh medium primary school would be established at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, with an expectation that pupils from Ysgol Pennant would go there.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith spokesman, Ffred Ffransis, explained: “The revised Code explicitly states that a local authority must start with a presumption in favour of retaining rural schools.

“Ysgol Pennant is on the Government’s official list of rural schools, and yet Powys education officers are being instructed to start with a presumption that Ysgol Pennant will be closed and pupils moved to a newly-designated school in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

“The whole plan is a non-starter as it is a flagrant breach of the statutory code and has the potential to be injurious to Welsh-medium education.

“Ysgol Pennant not only educates the children of Pen-y Bont Fawr, and acts as a focal point for the village community,  but also attracts many pupils from other communities such as Llanwddyn to be taught in Welsh.”

He believes that parents would not automatically choose to send their children to school in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant if Ysgol Pennant is closed.

The pressure group believes that creating a federation between Ysgol Pennant and Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant is a possible solution.

And they say that holding a valid consultation during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis would be “impossible”.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government, said: “When proposing significant changes to schools, local authorities must comply with the School Organisation Code which sets a high standard for consultation providing all those with an interest with an opportunity to make their views known and have their views taken into account.

“The current code introduced a presumption against the closure of rural schools and the first ever list of rural schools for this purpose. The case for closure must be strong and not taken until all viable alternatives have been explored.”

Portfolio holder for Education and Property, Cllr Phyl Davies, said: “Cabinet approved a Programme Business Case for capital investment to transform education in the Llanfyllin catchment.

“And also recommended that officers bring back a further report outlining any school reorganisation proposals that would be potentially be required to achieve the plans set out in the business case.

“Any future plans for reorganisation of any school will be fully compliant with the requirements of the Welsh Government’s School Organisation Code, including consideration of the presumption against closure of rural schools.

“At this stage, there are no school organisation proposals for any school in the Llanfyllin area.”

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