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‘This is why we are closing schools’

 
Created on 09/06/2021 @ 09:43

 

Powys County Council has come out fighting after accusations that its school closure programme across Powys is “flawed and potentially illegal”.

The regional authority’s education chief said that the claims made by a campaign group battling to save local schools, including Churchstoke and Castle Caereinion, are “wholly inaccurate and misleading”.

Public consultations are ongoing as PCC presses forward with its Strategy for Transforming Education in Powys 2020-30, which was approved in April 2020.

The current schools under the closure spotlight are thought to be the tip of an ice burg that could see many more disappear from our villages in the coming decade. 

The council has also denied that it is using the pandemic for refusing any form of public meetings with affected communities, and confirmed that consultations around school proposals are held in accordance with the Welsh Government’s School Organisation Code.

Earlier this week, Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds accused PCC of hiding from the public after Covid restrictions were eased on mass outdoor gatherings. 

“They either now face the communities and justify their plans or leave local residents knowing that they are being taken for granted,” she said.

The full statement from Cllr Phyl Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Property:

“The claims by this campaign group are malicious, wholly inaccurate and misleading. Their baseless claims could damage the integrity of the council if left unchallenged. 

“The Strategy for Transforming Education in Powys 2020-2030 is one of the most important documents that the council has produced following extensive engagement with learners, the teaching profession and the wider public, who expect us to deliver change that will benefit all learners.

“The strategy will not only help us to transform the learner experience and entitlement for all our learners but also help to address the significant challenges facing our education in Powys. These challenges include a high proportion of small schools in the county, decreasing pupil numbers, high number of surplus places, inequality in access to Welsh-medium education, limited post-14 and post-16 offer and inequality in access to special education needs/additional learning needs provision.

“Difficult and significant decisions need to be made if we are to deliver this strategy. The proposals we have developed to date have not been reached lightly. They have been challenged by senior leaders within the council at every step during their development and, as part of this process, we have also sought independent legal advice to ensure that they are robust.

“It is also disingenuous to claim that the council is using the pandemic for refusing any form of public meetings.

“All consultations around school proposals are held in accordance with the Welsh Government’s School Organisation Code, which does not require meetings to be held as part of the consultation process.  We do meet with governors, school staff and learners to seek their views on our proposals.

“Members of the public are given an opportunity to participate and give their views on proposals as part of the consultation process. In fact, we have received over 400 responses to one of the consultations we held recently.

“I want to reassure our citizens that all our proposals have been and will be developed robustly and that learners are put at the forefront of our decision-making. When the time comes to engage with schools’ communities, we will provide them with the platform to give their views, which will be considered fully by the council.

“We want the best for all our learners and I believe that this strategy will see us deliver a legacy that will allow learners to thrive and reach their potential and compete with the rest of the world.”

 

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