Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Can we screen out the sound of children playing?

A well-attended meeting to discuss the proposed new Welsh-medium school in Gwersyllt threw up some interesting arguments during a sometimes heated debate.
More than a 100 people were present to hear Wrecsam council officers John Davies and Dafydd Ifans outline the proposals for a new 210-pupil school on Delamere Avenue in Gwersyllt by September 2013. The school will meet existing demand, which is currently met by doubling the size of Ysgol Plas Coch in Rhosddu. This is not a sustainable situation given the traffic congestion being caused and the fact that concerts and other events have to take place off campus due to the size of the school.
The new school has won £4.2 million in funding from the Welsh Government and will substantially reduce the amount of pupils having to travel from Gwersyllt, Summerhill, Llay and Bradley to schools in Wrecsam town.
Despite this, there was a rearguard action by a few diehard opponents of the school tonight. Among the contradictory and slightly sad arguments against were:
• Will it lower the price of adjacent housing? (er, no)
• Will the sound of children playing be screened by trees? (yes, if you really dislike children that much)
• The site is waterlogged (the scheme will deal with this)
• The site is used by locals (and will still be - the school's facilities will be open to the local community)
• The traffic is terrible on Delamere Avenue and this will make it worse (not if the speed limit is cut to 20mph and traffic calming installed)
• English-medium schools in the area also struggle to hold assembly in their halls due to large numbers (so let's have keep it that way for everyone)
• Why not add Welsh-medium streams to the existing schools? (what, despite being full?)

None of the objectors said explicitly that they were against Welsh-medium education but the undercurrent was clear in some of the questions. Several plainly didn't understand the need for a new school and failed to grasp that there are already 170+ children from the local area attending Welsh-medium schools in other parts of the county. Many ill-tempered interventions, not least by the over-excitable headteacher of the local CP school and one of his governors, failed to understand that that this scheme is not a threat to existing local schools but rather to fulfil existing demand.

The many parents present who currently have to drive or bus their children across town to Bodhyfryd were clear of the benefits of a local school - the reduction in traffic should be substantial as a result. They and the officers kept to the point admirably.


Gwersyllt Resident said...

Is it the usual practice of Plaid Cymru to dismiss the concerns of local residents as "slightly sad"?

You fail to mention that the Opinion Research survey (which ostensibly formed the basis of Wrexham Council's bid for this school in the first place) was proved to be redundant (which was admitted by the officers). Surely this admission must throw some doubt on the process followed to date?

Nobody at the meeting said that they were against Welsh Medium education.

Views were expressed that there were alternative ways of achieving welsh-medium education without the massive expense to the taxpayer of building a new school and eroding further the 'green space' in the village.

I am further unaware of any comments made by Governors of Gwersyllt CP, or of any "ill-tempered" interventions by Head Teacher Mr Gledhill. There were objections to Councillor Arwel Jones assertion that anyone who did not agree with the 'pro' lobby should "keep out of it as it's nothing to do with you" which I felt to be perfectly justified.

Unfortunately Councillor Jones' response to these objections was belligerent, objectionable and threatened violence toward at least one attendee, who was told "Go outside and I'll deal with you later".

Not that it matters. You won't publish this comment anyway.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Anon - I think it's slightly sad that people object to hearing children playing, especially when other residents came up to us after the meeting to say they hoped the current use of motorbikes on the site would be halted by this development.

The ORS survey was from 2007. It has now been superceded by actual events, as John Davies made clear. The demand is not on paper,it's to be seen in the additional children from Gwersyllt area attending various Welsh-medium schools across the borough. The ORS survey correctly predicted this.

The alternatives to "achieving Welsh-medium education", as Anon puts it, would mean creating Welsh-medium streams in existing schools. This goes against the Welsh Government's strategy in areas such as Wrecsam, where the Welsh language is relatively weak, and would not allow the children attending to be immersed in the language in the same way as a separate school.
In addition, Mr Gledhill made it clear his school was already very full - could he accommodate a new Welsh-medium stream?

As for eroding green space - the site was described last night as "waterlogged" and "former landfill". The building's footprint will not touch 90% of the current open space, which is beside Alyn Waters Country Park, a large cricket pitch and across the road to a huge complex of playing fields.

Finally, Cllr Arwel Jones can answer for himself - he's not a Plaid cllr.

jane t said...

I attended last night's meeting as the parent of a child in Plas Coch who would dearly love to have a school closer to Gwersyllt. The traffic at Plas Coch gets worse every year as the numbers of children increase there. The opponents of this new school really can't be thinking of anyone but themselves when they object. They should think of the parents and pupils of the future who will be able to enjoy walking to school in their home village to get a Welsh language education.

Gwersyllt Resident said...

Regardless of Councillor Jones' political affiliations you were quick to accuse other members of the audience of being ill-tempered and disrupting the meeting, without mentioning the inexcusable behaviour displayed by one of the main proponents of the establishment of the school.

Is this because it doesn't suit your cause to write an unbiased precis of the meeting, preferring instead to deride the valid concerns of residents and other concerned participants?

Or is it because Councillor Jones' behaviour brought the entire Council into disrepute and his objectionable views harm your argument?

Gwersyllt Resident said...

Councillor Arfon Jones also supported Arwel Jones comments to Neil Gledhill on his Twitter feed - Tweeting "Diolch i'r Cynghorydd Arwel Gwynne Jones am roi prif wrthwynebydd yr Ysgol Gymraeg yn Gwersyllt (prifathro yr ysgol Saesneg leol) yn ei le!"

I believe this translates loosely to read

"Thank you to Councillor Arwel Gwynne Jones for putting the main opponent to the Welsh school in Gwersyllt (Headmaster of the local English school) in his place!"

Is this an official Plaid statement?

Gwersyllt Resident said...

While you're thinking about how best to put a positive/sarcastic/non-commital (delete as appropriate) spin on your answers to my questions, I'll throw some more grist to the mill.

Re: Gwersyllt CP - At what point did Mr Gledhill say that his school was full and would be unable to accomodate a Welsh stream? I recall no such comment (unless you count the statement that he can't fit all the kids from TWO schools into one hall) but that says nothing about capacity.

Re: Green Space - It may be that the particular piece of land is not, on it's own, a great loss. However it sets a precedent for building not only on designated green space (which residents were promised would not be developed) but outside of the designated settlement boundary, flying in the face of WCBC's own development plan.

Re: OSR research - Was it, or was it not the case that OSR's research was the basis upon which WCBC made it's bid for the funding? Regardless of whether or not subsequent demand backs up the research, it was a flawed exercise and could just as easily have been proven wrong. The "end result" doesn't justify faulty research.

Re:Gwersyllt CP Governor - Who is this mythical Governor who was so "ill-tempered?" I still can't think of one who spoke.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

I have had this same debate with Neil Gledhill time and time again, an awful lot of people there thought he was out of order and over stepped the mark. Arwel Jones's intervention was timely and following which many parents conbtributed to the robust debate. This was after all a public meeting and Arwel Jones is as entitled to express an opinion as anyone else; he was after all Lead Member for Education who commissioned the original ORS survey in 2007.

Gwersyllt Resident said...

And his threat of violence toward a member of the public? Is that a 'perk' of being a Councillor?

Gwersyllt Resident said...

What 'mark' did Neil Gledhill overstep? Perhaps you can refresh my memory?

Plaid Queensway said...

So are you still objecting to the school following the meeting last night? Given the clarification that a welsh medium stream won't work and that the need for a new school has been established beyond any doubt. If so, could you explain what your outstanding objections are? Diolch.

Gwersyllt Resident said...

I'm sorry, are you talking to me? I would have expected answers to my other questions before you asked any more....

Where did I say I was opposed to the school by the way?

When you assume, you make an ass out of u and... well just u really.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

Gwersyllt Resident - Please read
Paragraph's 2.12 to 2.16. These paragraphs clearly indicate why immersion in a Welsh Medium School is essential in a predominantly English speaking area to ensure that children are bilingual and why 'streams' in English Medium Schools DON'T WORK and this what Neil Gledhill cannot accept.

Anonymous said...

It's hypocritical of certain people who were at the meeting last night to send THEIR children to a Welsh School and then oppose the opportunity for others to do the same. What makes it worse is these people are Councillors.

Plaid Queensway said...

Gwersyllt resident - Yes I was talking to you, (assuming you are the one and only 'Gwersyllt resident' posting on here?)Ahh right, so you're supporting the school then! My mistake many apologies, your series of comments slightly threw me there.

Gwersyllt Resident said...

@Plaid Queensway - Perhaps I was interested in posting the 'alternative' views that were expressed during the meeting, to balance your highly prejudiced and unbalanced report.

You simply chose to report what supported your 'party line' as opposed to what actually happened.

Anonymous said...

Ding dong, don't think there's any coming back to Anita's post! Da iawn Anita.

Anonymous said...

Da Iawn indeed.

Dilute your argument with personal attacks.

I stopped reading when Anita felt the need to stoop into the gutter.

No coming back? Not for her dignity, no.

Anonymous said...

In hearing Mr Gledhill's comments, I believe it was not that he refused to accept that welsh streams in english schools didnt work. Moreover it was that a promise, made by John Davies in a public meeting, to consider and investigate the possibility of welsh immersion by lookng at various schools where it had and hadnt worked was never honoured.
That was the issue. A promise in a public meeting had not been honoured. Plaid, you are economical and yet extravagant with the truth.

Gwersyllt Resident said...

I also stopped reading when Anita "stooped into the gutter"

When public consultation turns into personal attacks on strangers simply for having opposing views, threats of violence perpetrated by elected officials which are then supported by those who support the school and racist views are endorsed by the owners of this website then the 'pro' lobby has already lost the argument.

Even if the school goes ahead it will have been built on a foundation of bullying, intimidation and lies.

That will be a proud day for Wales.

Over and Out.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Gwersyllt Resident.

Perhaps when you've stopped making mountains out of molehills, you'll realise how ludicrous your remarks are.

The alleged threats by an 80-year-old retired headteacher - which nobody else seems to have heard - have now become conflated with "racist views".

If this is the best the anti-school brigade can do, then it needs to go back to the classroom.

Amanda Hugankiss said...

For parents who live in Gwersyllt, Bradley and Llay, surely the issue has to be the right to be able to send their children to a school that teaches through the medium of Welsh if that is what they want.

The demand is clearly there and will continue to grow when the new school opens.

The existing Wrexham Welsh medium schools are full so this new school is essential.

I also attended the meeting and wasn't quite sure what the arguments against the school really were. There were a series of problems that the council have already addressed or took on board to try and address and some other relatively minor issues were raised. Not all of these were relevant.

Furthermore, I didn't perceive any threat of violence from the old man who spoke. Maybe his actions could be considered a bit melodramatic and maybe not conducive to a calm discussion, but if any one thinks he was inviting someone to go outside for a fight then they are very much mistaken.

Once again, I hope this school does go ahead.

Anonymous said...

Mountains out of molehills?

Am I the only one who recalls this?

"Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru leader on Wrexham Council, said: “I don’t think my party has an official policy on Mars bars but, speaking in a personal capacity, I agree that a lot of people would take offence at the England wrappers being on sale here."

"Another Plaid Cymru councillor, Queensway member Carrie Harper, said: “It’s not only Mars who are being insensitive towards Wales at the moment. There are big England displays at a number of shops and stores in the town.

“But there are a lot of other teams in the World Cup apart from England. I think the Mars wrappers will offend a lot of people - they show a lack of respect to Wales."

Glasshouses, stones, pots & kettles all spring to mind.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Anon - have a look at this re the Mars Bars http://wrecsamplaid.blogspot.com/2010/06/letter-to-leader.html

Anonymous said...

And yet you and Ms Harper chose to comment on the ludicrous story instead of dismissing it as a non-issue unworthy of your time.

That speaks volumes

Evan Sabone said...

Mars Bars - a bit off topic for discussion about a school blog.
Can people please keep the discussions on track.

Anonymous said...

@Evan Sabone

It goes to credibility of the witnesses your honour....

Anonymous said...

It goes to credibility...

doesn't sound grammatically correct to me, but what would a first language Welsh speaker like me know about the queen's English.

Anonymous said...

Is the head of the local school in breach of the General Teaching Council Wales Code of Conduct? It says that teachers should give information to parents which is accurate and shouldn't seek to mislead.

Anonymous said...

Mars bars, outrage because of comments from an 80 yr old bloke, 'racist views are endorsed by the owners of this website'. Someone has seriously lost the plot. The phrase grasping at straws also comes to mind considering this blog post is about a new school. Where are the racist views on this website Gwersyllt Resident? You can't say something like that without backing it up, come on please share with the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

I'm a welsh learner. I want all children in Wales to be able to access a bilingual education. But my husband was at that meeting last night. He didn't say a word. He now doesn't want to live in Wales any more- feels unwelcome.

Anonymous said...

The anger and upset is not about the issue of welsh medium education. It is the way this has become a political football, the way local residents have felt it is imposed, without consultation- a done deal- and the way local Members have been derided merely for representing the views of their constituents.

Anonymous said...

When parents can have wrap-round care in the welsh medium which is not available in English medium there is not a level playing field. Perhaps that is all people want. A local school- yes- a modern school with all facilities- yes. Equality yes. People who don't speak welsh may be welsh born and bred too.

Anonymous said...

The racist views were expressed by the vitriolic 80 yr old. And i suppose we should ignore him because he is 80, should we? I guess we should add ageism to Plaid's CV too.
May i add also, that the people who have objected to the process have not stooped to personal, derogatory remarks. Keep the high moral ground pawb...diolch. See! we can do it too!!

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Anon 23:43 Could you explain what Arwel Jones said that was racist?

Many of the Anonymous comments seem more concerned with attacking Plaid than arguing the case for or against the new school. Our shoulders are broad enough for that.

But there has been no attempt to make this a political football from this side - the point has been to respond to local demand for Welsh-medium education. This is at the core of the argument and I have yet to see anyone counter that.

One Anon talks about a level playing field, yet we heard in the meeting about the disproportionate number of mobile classrooms in Welsh-medium schools. Is that a level-playing field? There will be a brand new school opening in Rhosymedre before long - I don't hear anyone complaining about that school having iPads or better facilities.

Anonymous said...

Im glad your shoulders are broad. He said that he didnt care about english medium schools and he wanted separitism, not integration.
There are many schools in the Wrexham authority that have mobile classrooms so dont feel too unique. And by the way, Rhosymedre is not in Gwersyllt.
And we are allowed to object, are we not? that is our right. My point was that Plaid supporters seem to have got very personal and that doesnt do you any favours. stick to the argument and not Mars bars.

Anonymous said...

There is a brand new school being built in Llay as well, they'll have IPADS as well. Incidentally Heulfan have just bough a load of IPADS so why can't CP?

Another Gwersyllt Resident said...

I've tried to stay out of this debate so far, simply because I feel that squabbling solves nothing.

However, I must protest at the personal attacks that have been perpetrated against a man who simply stood up at a public meeting (despite knowing that his views would go against the 'majority') and said what he thought.

The man who has been publically derided as "Slimy" (on this website), and a "real idiot" (on Twitter) is in fact a respected local businessman, a school volunteer (working with several schools to help parents & children), highly active in the community and a superb father to his daughter.

He is also a supporter of LOCAL charities and a member of Gwersyllt CP PTA (although he did not attend in this capacity)

He gives of his time and expertise freely without thought of personal reward and his efforts to ensure that the needs of the WHOLE community are met are to be congratulated.

I have known this man for a number of years but will not identify him here as it is his right to identify himself if he feels so inclined. (And no, we're not related or close friends, he's just someone who's efforts I appreciate)

I was at the meeting on 12th July and was impressed by this person's eloquent and intelligent questions (and they were questions, not objections) and he certainly did not appear to be against Welsh Medium education. He asked about funding, questioned the validity of OSR research (rightly so) and asked how the development would affect existing schools in the area.

He listened to the responses given and thanked the speakers for their answers.

I also witnessed Councillor Arwel Jones' outburst toward the end of the meeting and can support the view of Anonymous (00:07) in his assertion that Mr Jones appeared to be advocating separatism over inclusion and that anyone representing English medium schools should "keep out of it and let the Welsh get on with it".

If that doesn't represent racism at it's basest level, I don't know what does.

I can also confirm that Mr Jones told the person in question to "Go outside and I'll deal with you later". I also took this to be a threat of violence.

It is irrelevant whether or not, by virtue of his age, Mr Jones was actually capable of carrying out such a threat, he is an elected individual and as such certain standards are expected of him. Indeed the WCBC Code of Conduct for Council Members forbids "Bullying and Harassment" of individuals.

If, as asserted on this website, it is 'ludicrous' to take this 80 year old Councillor seriously on THIS point, perhaps he should retire, as if what he says in a public meeting cannot be taken seriously, how can he represent his community at Council?

Anonymous said...

And the gentleman who has been pilloried as racist actually attended a welsh medium school himself so is not opposed to welsh medium education. Why is it assumed that people with questions and fears are opposed? I know I understood the viewpoint of those in favour of the new school much better after the meeting. But some there did their cause no favours by their behaviour, and the slanging match seems to be continuing.

Plaid Whitegate said...

@Anon 11:20 - the only accusation of "racism" is being made against Cllr Arwel Jones, so I think you've got the wrong end of the stick.

The purpose of the original report was to discuss the objections to the proposed new school as raised on the night and spark a debate.

I can understand objectors asking questions - we all have. But what I don't understand is the "fears" - what are objectors afraid of?

Anne Grenade said...

It is a shame that this debate has gone away from the facts and descended often into abuse and petty point making.

It is important that we focus on the facts.

It is a fact that there is increasing demand for Welsh medium education.

It is a fact that Plas Coch school is operating far above capacity.

It is a fact that there are many parents in Gwersyllt, Bradley and Llay who currently send their children to Plas Coch (if they are lucky) or to Bodhyfred.

It is a fact that the school will be built and equiped like any other new school built in the area.

Let's forget abusing each other or abusing political ideologies. We will all have varying opinions and political views and we would strugle to agree with each other on everything. Let's just get on with fighting for the best education for all our children what ever school they go to.

Anonymous said...

@Anne Grenade

"It is a fact that the school will be built and equiped (sic) like any other new school built in the area"

Not yet it isn't. Unless you know something I don't.

Anonymous said...

Pardon me. I was referring of course not to the person who was called a racist because of what he was heard to say, but to the gentleman who was referred to as slimy and balding in a suit for no other reason than that the writer disagreed with him asking polite questions. My mistake.
And we wonder why children go in for name-calling in the playground.....
Another question: who was supposed to be chairing the meeting? Whoever it was didn't do a very good job. But at least all the boxes are ticked.

Anonymous said...

I think you will find that Heulfan were given the Ipads from the LEA. And Llay having a brand new school? News again!! Plaid certainly are in the know!!!

Geraint Lovgreen said...

All this name-calling from both sides ("slimy" ... "racist") really adds nothing to the argument.
The 'fears' raised in the original post do appear to be baseless, and suggest a certain anti-Welsh undertone.
I am an outsider to this argument, but am interested as one who was educated in the Welsh-medium school in Wrecsam (Ysgol Gymraeg Wrecsam as it was then, Ysgol Bodhyfryd now).
To the lady who wrote that her husband no longer felt welcome in Wales - my father was an English man from Liverpool. He experienced nothing but welcome here. That may have been because he set about learning the language and didn't bear any hostile feelings towards it.
Hence we three children grew up as bilingual Welsh and English speakers, thanks to the educational opportunities we were given in Wrecsam.
Why would you want to deny these opportunities to the children of Gwersyllt?

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is capable of learning a new language later in life. In fact even some children can't cope with a new language. Many learning welsh are from English homes. Many thrive with a second language- I was an au pair who cared for a child being brought up with two languages- neither of them English-but some have to go back to English medium because it is just too much to struggle with a second language. Horses for courses. Bilingualism is a wonderful thing for those who can cope with it..

Yet Another Gwersyllt Resident said...

At no point has anyone said that they are opposed to Welsh Medium education and I have yet to determine any "anti-Welsh" undertones in any of the questions asked by residents or community representatives in relation to this proposal.

The whole point of public consultation is to garner the views of the entire community before the project goes ahead. WCBC do appear to be "ticking the boxes" in this regard at last.

However, Councillor Arwel Jones' self confessed comments that the proposal is "Nothing to do with them" (referring to English-Medium School Representatives)and "they have no right to try and stop it" shows how quickly the 'pro' lobby will pull out the race card when the going gets tough.

How many steps removed from apartheid is the concept that different rights are to be accorded to citizens based upon what language they speak, or choose for their children to speak?

What next - "Welsh only" buses? Voting rights only for those who "Siarad Cymraeg"? The best seats in restaurants denied to English speakers?

If Cllr Jones is incapable of representing (or at least respecting) the entire community he should step down as he is not "fit for purpose".

Plaid Whitegate said...

The only people playing the race card are the antis - this Anon comment talking about Apartheid and Labour councillor Ted George in today's Leader talking about "segregation".
The buses and restaurants slur is a shocker, not least because people in the past few years have been banned from speaking Welsh in their own workplaces.
Some people really need grow up and stop trying to make the opening of a new school and parental choice into a big race row.

Anonymous said...

You started it!!!! Now how childish is that eh?!!!