Saturday, 14 March 2009

Concern over 'surplus places' threat to Ceiriog schools


Plans to re-organise a valley's schools should not rely on a rigid formula but consider the needs of a community, says Plaid Cymru.

Plaid Cymrus Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wrexham, Councillor Arfon Jones has questioned whether the formula for calculating school places in primary schools in Wales is correct.

Cllr Jones challenged officers during a meeting of the Councils Executive Board, which was discussing future school provision in the Ceiriog Valley. At present the valley is served by three schools in Llanarmon, Glyn Ceiriog and Pontfadog.

One of the officers' recommendations was to close Ysgol Pontfadog and move the 23 pupils currently there to Ysgol Cynddelw in Glyn Ceiriog, where there are supposedly 30 surplus places.

Cllr Jones said: "Having visited Ysgol Cynddelw, I dont think there are 30 surplus places there and thats because there are Welsh- and English-medium streams. Both streams need a Foundation Phase in the school, which takes up more room than the traditional classroom based teaching as well as more staff."

His concerns were echoed by Plaid's North Wales AM Janet Ryder, who has visited the schools at Llanarmon and Pontfadog. She said: "The initial consultation of parents and the wider community found huge support to retain the schools, so I'm glad that Wrexham Council has gone some way to reflecting that in preserving Ysgol Llanarmon. This is the county's only naturally Welsh-medium school and serves a very wide rural location.

"Travelling to Glyn Ceiriog would be very difficult for some young pupils and would also be a slap in the face for all the hard work done by parents, governors, teachers and the wider community in developing school resources there."

Plaid Cymru has backed the community's campaign to maintain their schools and Cllr Jones said he was concerned that the Welsh Assembly Government has not adequately revised the surplus places formula to account for the Foundation Phase - particularly in respect of bilingual schools where there will be two Foundation phases.

Cllr Jones added: "It is a dangerous precedent to consider closing schools on the basis of surplus school places where there is doubt over whether those surplus places exist or not."

A further argument put forward for closing schools is the fact that they do not fit the Assembly Governments criteria of being fit for purpose. Under this criteria Ysgol Llanarmon would be classed as "not fit for purpose" but Plaid Cymru says that Ysgol Llanarmon is in an excellent condition where parents and the governors have carried out much maintenance themselves and have even leased a playing field for the school.

Cllr Jones said: "The policy on whether schools are fit for purpose is relative and consideration should be given to the views of children, staff, parents and governors before condemning a school as not being fit for purpose."

1 comment:

sarah anderson said...

Thank you, Arfon for your support. Ysgol Pontfadog is a vital part of the Pontfadog community and the village would be irreparably damaged without it. Our children deserve the best local education and we are very proud of our school.