MP in war of words over schools shake-up

COUNTY ‘AS­TOUNDED BY CRIT­I­CISM’

Bangor Mail - - News - Gareth Wil­liams

ACOUNCIL leader “as­tounded” by an MP’s at­tack on her au­thor­ity’s schools pol­icy has hit back to de­fend the pro­gramme.

An­gle­sey coun­cil’s school mod­erni­sa­tion pro­gramme was ac­cused of “ig­nor­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties” by Al­bert Owen MP in a pre-elec­tion war of words.

Writ­ing in last week’s Mail col­umn, Labour MP Al­bert Owen claimed that the au­thor­ity had “messed up” the pro­gramme de­signed to re­duce the num­ber of empty spa­ces and im­prove school build­ings.

Hav­ing al­ready opened three new multi-mil­lion-pound “su­per schools” over re­cent years, last De­cem­ber saw coun­cil­lors rub­ber-stamp the clo­sure of Ys­gol Gy­muned Bodf­fordd to merge it with Llangefni’s Ys­gol Corn Hir in a brand new fa­cil­ity.

This fol­lowed de­ci­sions made in July 2018 to shut Ys­gol Gyn­radd Beau­maris, while re­fur­bish­ing Ys­gol Llan­deg­fan and Ys­gol Llan­goed, as well as the clo­sure of Ys­gol Tal­wrn, with the pupils set to be moved 1.8 miles away to an ex­tended Ys­gol y Graig in Llangefni.

But alarm bells started to ring this past March when the ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter re­vealed she was in­ves­ti­gat­ing a com­plaint the coun­cil did not fol­low proper pro­ce­dure in de­cid­ing to shut Ys­gol Gy­muned Bodf­fordd.

The sub­se­quent of­fi­cers’ re­port, pre­sented to the executive, rec­om­mended scrap­ping these de­ci­sions af­ter an in­ter­nal re­view found “a num­ber of com­ments and con­cerns,” with of­fi­cers of the opin­ion that por­tions of the con­sul­ta­tion process fell foul of the Welsh Gov­ern­ment’s pre­vi­ous Schools Or­gan­i­sa­tion Code.

But ac­cord­ing to Mr Owen, lo­cal peo­ple

had “warned the au­thor­ity of is­sues”, only for the coun­cil to “carry on with its ad-hoc pre­ferred op­tions, ig­nor­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, stat­ing the need for a “2020 vi­sion.”

Sub­se­quently, the au­thor­ity has con­firmed that all such projects are on hold for the time be­ing un­til new con­sul­ta­tions can be car­ried out in the af­fected ar­eas.

This in­cludes rad­i­cal pro­pos­als which would see Aml­wch’s Ys­gol Syr Thomas Jones be­ing amal­ga­mated with lo­cal pri­maries or even shut al­to­gether in a bid to re­duce the num­ber of empty spa­ces.

Mr Owen wrote that the coun­cil needed a “co­her­ent plan that takes lo­cal peo­ple with them.”

“Now com­mu­ni­ties will be asked again on clo­sures and new schools.

“This has caused anx­i­ety to par­ents across the is­land and no doubt the in­com­pe­tence of the au­thor­ity will cost the tax­payer money.”

But in re­sponse, the Plaid Cymru leader of the au­thor­ity de­nied they were lack­ing vi­sion, point­ing out to their tar­gets of im­prov­ing both ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards and build­ings.

“Within the last three years we have opened three brand new state of the art schools at Rhyd y Llan, Ys­gol Cybi and most re­cently Ys­gol Santes Dwyn­wen,” Cllr Lli­nos Medi told the Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­port­ing Ser­vice.

“These have been un­prece­dented de­vel­op­ments in the his­tory of An­gle­sey Coun­cil and have been warmly wel­comed by the chil­dren, teach­ers and par­ents.”

She added: “I was as­tounded to hear Al­bert Owen at­tack­ing the Coun­cil’s Schools Mod­erni­sa­tion Pro­gramme – de­scrib­ing it as not be­ing co­her­ent and stat­ing that we need a 2020 vi­sion.”

■ Lli­nos Medi, leader of An­gle­sey Coun­cil, and (inset) Al­bert Owen

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