FEARS FOR 17 ISLAND SCHOOLS
Many smaller primaries’ futures thrown into doubt by modernisation programme
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