Council accused of ‘rehashing’ school closure plan

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Welsh language campaigners have accused Anglesey Council of ‘rehashing’ plans to close two primary schools.

Councillors will meet on Tuesday (14th January) to discuss fresh proposals for a controversial shake-up of primary education in and around the Llangefni area.

The county council says it wants to shut Ysgol Bodffordd and move pupils into a new £10 million home for Ysgol Corn Hir. Pupils from Ysgol Talwrn could be moved into Ysgol y Graig following a £6 million expansion.

Last May, similar plans were scrapped when it emerged officials had failed to meet Welsh Government guidelines when they recommended the closures of Bodffordd, Talwrn, and a third school, Ysgol Beaumaris.

At the time, the council said it would reconsider the future of its school modernisation scheme – and any fresh consultation would have to comply with the 2018 Schools Organisation Code.

But Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg said the council was restarting the process with ”practically the same proposal” and has called for the Education Minister to step in and intervene.

In March last year, Kirsty Williams announced she was considering whether to investigate a formal complaint against the proposed closure of Ysgol Boddfordd.

Ffred Fransis, Cymdeithas’ education spokesperson, said: ”It now becomes clear why the council ignored our repeated requests since last summer for a meeting to discuss a positive way forward, as the schools in Llangefni town certainly deserve upgrading, but not by closing village schools.”

”It’s obvious now that they were not interested in any meeting nor discussion as they had a vindictive determination to take action against the village schools which had caused them such embarrassment, while going through the sterile motions of consultation this time.”

”The best outcome would be for the council to sit down and genuinely discuss with the local communities and groups such as our alternatives, and this could be done rapidly. Failing that, the minister should act immediately to avoid months of extra cost and heartbreak for parents and children.”

Anglesey Council says its plans are aimed at meeting the ”long-term sustainability” of education in the Llangefni area, while ensuring there are enough school places to meet demands.

Councillor Meirion Jones, Anglesey’s education chief, said: ”The aim of our modernisation programme is to create the best possible educational environment for teachers, staff and all pupils to succeed and thereby promote high standards.”

”Change is seldom easy; and the school modernisation programme has, to date, been very challenging. It has meant making difficult decisions and closing some primary schools. It has also allowed us to invest a substantial £22m in education on the island by building three new schools for current and future generations.”

”Since Anglesey’s school modernisation programme began in 2012, new 21st century primary schools have been built and opened in Holyhead, Llanfaethlu and Newborough. Welsh Government funding to build more new schools fit for the 21st century is available now and it is vital that we continue to make the best possible use of it.”

Council leader Llinos Medi added: ”We firmly believe that our schools modernisation programme represents a vital driver for positive change in education across the whole county.”

”By investing in the future of our children and young people, we will ensure that they are taught in school buildings which are fit for the 21st century, in the right place, and meet both the needs of pupils and staff. This will, ultimately, help raise standards and protect the Welsh language.”

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has called for a local federation to be set up between Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni, Ysgol Corn Hir, Ysgol y Graig, Ysgol Talwrn and Ysgol Boddfordd, despite the idea being ruled out by the council.

Ffred Ffransis said: ”The council has stated in the report that this option would not satisfy all the requirements if there was no extra capital expenditure. The simple answer, therefore, is to set up the pioneering federation, and use the £10 million for which they are budgeting to upgrade the existing buildings.

”The minister has publicly stated that this is permissible under the guidelines of the 21st Century Schools fund, and a strong educational unit bridging the gap from the primary to the secondary sector would be created.”

A scrutiny committee will discuss the proposals for the Llangefni area before it’s sent to the council executive next Monday. Plans for the Seiriol and Amlwch areas are also due to be considered later in the year.

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