School closures: petition considered for Senedd debate

An Assembly committee will consider whether to debate rural school closures in the Senedd.

Campaigners delivered a 5,000-strong petition against the closure of Ysgol Bodffordd to the Assembly during the National Eisteddfod last month.

The petitions committee said on Tuesday it would now formally consider whether to hold a debate in the Assembly chamber on the code offering more protection to rural schools in Wales, introduced last year by Education Minister Kirsty Williams.

Anglesey councillors voted in April to shut both Bodffordd and Ysgol Corn Hir – with pupils moving to a new multi-million pound superschool in nearby Llangefni.

Ynys Môn AM Rhun ap Iorwerth, who sits on the committee, said he welcomed the decision: ”There are a number of key issues that need to be explored when it comes to the Assembly floor, not least what the petitioners asked for – whether the Welsh Government is ensuring that local authorities the length and breadth of Wales are keeping to the code.

”But also key is whether the code is anything more than words without the resources to support it.”

Before Tuesday’s meeting, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) called on the Plaid Cymru AM to ensure the committee demanded ”straight answers” from the minister or invite campaigners to their next meeting for talks.

Last week, the council backed a review into the future of another 17 rural schools across the island.

Cymdeithas education spokesman Ffred Fransis said: ”We were dismayed that the council intends to ignore the Government’s new code for village schools, and to carry on regardless…it’s a threat to the majority of the Welsh-speaking rural communities on the island.”

”We ask Ynys Môn councillors to change the terms of reference of this study by asking officers to draw up proposals to positively develop these schools, both in co-operation with each other and as community assets and to use innovative ways of rationalising administration.”

”This is the only way forward consistent with the Government’s requirement that there should be a presumption in favour of keeping open and developing rural schools.”

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