Many smaller pri­maries’ fu­tures thrown into doubt by mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme

Bangor Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Gareth Wyn Wil­liams

THE fu­ture of 17 schools is up in the air af­ter coun­cil­lors rub­ber-stamped a doc­u­ment spark­ing doubt over all An­gle­sey’s pri­maries with fewer than 120 pupils.

In a bid to re­duce the num­ber of empty spa­ces in class­rooms across the island, An­gle­sey coun­cil is un­der­tak­ing a mod­erni­sa­tion process which has al­ready seen three new “21st cen­tury schools” built over re­cent years.

But, while the pro­gramme, funded 50/50 with Welsh Govern­ment sup­port, is be­ing un­der­taken on an are­aby-area ba­sis, fresh doubts have been raised over the fu­ture of sev­eral ex­ist­ing schools which could make way for multi-mil­lion pound fa­cil­i­ties by merg­ing with neigh­bour­ing pri­maries.

Ac­cord­ing to the three-year medium-term fi­nan­cial plan, An­gle­sey coun­cil needs to cut an­other £9m from its bud­get over the next three years, de­spite hav­ing al­ready shaved al­most £22m, or 16.6%, from its to­tal ex­pen­di­ture since 2013/14 due to dwin­dling cen­tral govern­ment grants.

The re­port, which was ap­proved by the coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive yes­ter­day, out­lined that, be­tween now and 2021/22, it will “re­view the fu­ture of small schools un­der 120 pupils”.

An­gle­sey cur­rently spends the third high­est av­er­age cost per pupil in Wales - at £3,972 per child.

In 2017, three pri­mary schools in Holy­head shut to make way for the £10m Ys­gol Cybi, namely Ys­gol Llain­goch, Ys­gol y Parc and Ys­gol y Parchedig Thomas El­lis. The same year, Ys­gol Rhyd y Llan also opened its doors in Llan­faethlu, mean­ing the clo­sure of the vil­lage’s Ys­gol Ffrwd Win, Ys­gol Cylch y Garn in Llan­rhud­d­lad and Ys­gol Llan­fachraeth, with nearby Ys­gol Gyn­radd Lland­deu­sant hav­ing also shut in 2011.

Mean­while, the first pupils are set to move into brand-new Ys­gol Santes Dwyn­wen next year, re­sult­ing in the clo­sure of Ys­gol Bodorgan, Ys­gol Dwyran, Ys­gol Ni­wb­wrch and Ys­gol Llangaffo.

Over sum­mer, the coun­cil ex­ec­u­tive also voted to shut Ys­gol Beau­maris and Ys­gol Tal­wrn, with pupils to at­tend Ys­gol Llan­goed and Ys­gol y Graig re­spec­tively, both ren­o­vated and ex­tended to ac­com­mo­date the new in­take.

At present, 17 schools on the island match these cri­te­ria in ar­eas yet to be re­viewed as part of the mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme. As of the lat­est fig­ures (Septem­ber 2017), these are: Amlwch catch­ment area Ys­gol Gyn­radd Ce­maes (63) Ys­gol Gy­muned Car­reglefn (24) Ys­gol Gy­muned Moel­fre (63) Ys­gol Gy­muned Llan­fechell (65) Ys­gol Gyn­radd Penysarn (89) Ys­gol Gy­muned Rhosy­bol (57) Holy­head catch­ment area Ys­gol Santes Gwen­faen, Rhoscolyn (100) Ys­gol Gyn­radd Rhos­neigr (63) Ys­gol Gy­muned Y Fali (81) Ys­gol Y Ty­wyn, RAF Val­ley (115) Llangefni catch­ment area Ys­gol Gyn­radd Llanbedr­goch (31) Ys­gol David Hughes catch­ment area Ys­gol Gy­muned Pen­traeth (89) Ys­gol Uwchradd Bod­ed­ern catch- ment area Ys­gol Gyn­radd Bod­ed­ern (93) Ys­gol Gy­muned Bryn­g­wran (48) Ys­gol y Ffridd, Gwalch­mai (84) Ys­gol Gy­muned Llan­nerch-y-Medd (108) Ys­gol Gyn­radd Pen­car­ni­siog (59)

Many school cam­paign­ers had pinned their hopes on sched­uled changes to the Welsh Govern­ment’s School Or­gan­i­sa­tion Code, mak­ing clo­sures a “last re­sort” sce­nario.

But the island’s AM urged decisionmakers in Cardiff Bay to pro­vide more cash for coun­cils.

Rhun ap Ior­w­erth added that he had sym­pa­thy with coun­cils work­ing to ever-tighter spend­ing lim­its while com­ing un­der pres­sure “from a num­ber of con­flict­ing di­rec­tions.”

“Welsh Govern­ment wants to give the im­pres­sion that it is pro­tect­ing ru­ral schools by de­vis­ing a new ‘code’ that coun­cils will have to fol­low be­fore clos­ing schools,” he said.

“I wel­come any gen­uine at­tempts to help smaller schools but, at the same time as this code is be­ing de­vel­oped, Govern­ment pol­icy is urg­ing moves to­wards larger schools, and, cru­cially, a code not backed by ad­di­tional re­source is a smoke­screen.”

Mr ap Ior­w­erth added: “I par­tic­u­larly favour the cre­ation of multi-site ‘Area Schools’, with one head and one gov­ern­ing body sharing costs and set­ting com­mon goals and stan­dards across the dif­fer­ent sites but cru­cially al­low­ing more com­mu­ni­ties to keep their pri­mary schools.

“This ‘new deal’ for ru­ral school clus­ters won’t stop all school clo­sures, but it will em­power coun­cils to look for in­no­va­tive an­swers and, prop­erly re­sourced, will mean that ru­ral­ity is em­braced and not seen as a bur­den.”

A Welsh Govern­ment spokesper­son said: “Our re­vised School Or­gan­i­sa­tion Code will in­tro­duce a pre­sump­tion against the clo­sure of ru­ral schools. There is very lit­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the cur­rent code and the pro­pos­als Rhun ap Ior­w­erth sets out.

“The code al­ready in­cludes op­tions such as es­tab­lish­ing multi-site schools and al­ter­na­tives to clo­sure, such as fed­er­a­tion with other schools.

“We’re also pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary re­sources – £2.5m a year through small and ru­ral schools grants – to en­cour­age in­no­va­tion and sup­port schools to work to­gether. This is es­sen­tial for their long-term vi­a­bil­ity.”

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Llan­fechell ● The An­gle­sey schools whose fu­ture has been put in doubt un­der the mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Pen­car­ni­siog

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Pen­traeth

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Moel­fre

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Llanbedr­goch

● Ys­gol y Ffridd, Gwalch­mai

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Rhosy­bol

● Ys­gol Santes Gwen­faen, Rhoscolyn

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Bryn­g­wran

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Llan­nerch-y-Medd

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Car­reglefn

● Ys­gol Gy­muned Y Fali

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Penysarn

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Ce­maes

● Ys­gol Y Ty­wyn, RAF Val­ley

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Bod­ed­ern

● Ys­gol Gyn­radd Rhos­neigr

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