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Councillors question whether there is enough evidence to support school closure

MEMBERS of a council committee that looked at the consultation response to close a primary school near Crickhowell have questioned whether there is enough evidence to support the proposal.

In February, Powys County Council’s Independent/Conservative cabinet took the decision to start the process of closing Llanbedr Church in Wales primary school, believing that it will save £101,000 a year.

At a meeting of the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Thursday, November 4, councillors, and independent members looked at the responses to the consultation on the proposal that took place between April 21 and June 23.

The consultation report states that 113 people completed the response form, 62 written responses were received and a petition to “Save Our School Llanbedr CIW” had 2,119 signatures.

Cllr Jake Berriman said: “Our role is to test the recommendations before they go to cabinet for approval to see if they are sufficiently substantiated by evidence.

“That evidence is beginning to trouble me.

“The smaller rural schools are being targeted for closure principally it seems for cost.

“I’m not sure where it leaves our process, it was even conceded by officers (in the report) that this is a very good little school, working effectively in a cluster.”

The report states that the cost per pupil in Llanbedr, is £6,010 compared to the Powys average of £4,825.

Cllr Berriman believed that the comparison should be cost per pupil for schools of 91 or less which is what the Welsh Government define as a “small school.”

Independent member and school governor, Angela Davies said: “The headteacher in this school is leading the other schools in the cluster, so there’s clearly no worries about the capability and quality being delivered.

“We’ve been told there are too many schools and not enough money to fund them, but there’s nothing that says that the £101,000 will be kept for schools.”

The council’s head of transformation and communication Emma Palmer referred back to the “wider strategic elements” that the school closure had.

Ms Palmer explained that it was about redistributing the financial “cake” so all pupils in Powys have the same educational opportunities

Ms Palmer said: “We need to think of all those children not going to Llanbedr.”

“What we are trying to do is address this and that our infrastructure is set up for 18th century education not 21st.

“We’re looking across all of the children in the county, all of the funding.”

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies said: “We haven’t heard from every member of scrutiny, is silence a sign of support for the paper?”

Cllr David Jones responded: “I wouldn’t like the cabinet member to think that my silence is acquiescence or agreement with this proposal.

“No one can point me to anything wrong with Llanbedr school.”

The report will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next Tuesday, November 9.

If they decide to continue with closing the school this will happen at the end of August 2022 with pupils transferring to their nearest alternative school.


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