A PROPOSAL to merge a primary and secondary school in Llanfair Caerenion, is back on track.
At their meeting on Tuesday, Februray 16, Powys County Council’s Independent/Conservative cabinet brushed aside concerns that the decision to go ahead with the process of creating an all-through school for four to 18 year olds in January, had been ‘flawed’.
On February 1 the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee discussed the merger after it had been “called in” for discussion.
Part of the issue is that Llanfair Caereinion could become the Welsh Medium secondary school for the whole of Montgomeryshire, when other sites in Welshpool or Newtown might be better suited.
Discussion of this prospect could happen in a couple of years time which could prompt a further reorganisation of the Llanfair Caereinion schools.
At the meeting scrutiny members had voted narrowly, to send the decision back to the cabinet for them to look at again
At the cabinet meeting, chairman of the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee, Cllr Peter Roberts, (Llandrindod South – Liberal Democrat) said: “We are unconvinced that there is sufficient evidence that this move will be beneficial.”
He believed it may “prejudice” further reorganisation in the area.
Cllr Roberts added: “We believe there is a strong possibility that all this will do is create a period of constant upheaval, disruption and uncertainty for staff for a three to five-year period which could be detrimental to pupils best interest.”
He asked that the decision be postponed until a more comprehensive review of the wider cluster take place.
Portfolio holder for Adult Social Care and Welsh language Cllr Myfanwy Alexander (Indepdnengt, Banwy) wanted to correct “factual errors” brought up by the scrutiny committee discussions.
Pointing to the recent closure of a primary school in Llanerfyl, and that the statutory process to close a primary school in Castle Caereinion had started, she believed, showed that the Llanfair Caereinion catchment area was being reviewed.
Cllr Alexander said: “The numbers are incorrect there are 176 in the primary school which combines with 645 in the High School does not make the number of 400 mentioned in the scrutiny report.”
Cllr Alexander also said that since the days she was “head girl” at Caereinion High School, it had been in a financial surplus, it has “never been in deficit”.
She explained that anomalies to the finances were because the school had an accounting policy which did not add grant funding to the balance sheet, until it is paid.
Cllr Alexander added: “The most important thing that scrutiny did not pick up was the overwhelming support for this proposal.
“This is the beginning of a new journey for Caereinion and I recommend to my cabinet colleagues support it as what it is, a stage on a journey.”
Findings of a consultation which took place between in October and November 2020 on the merger proposal found that 52 per cent of respondents were in favour.
Cllr Gareth Jones (Independent – Llanfair Caerenion), said: “The community of Llanfair are very keen for this.
“There has been a bit of discontent in the school for a number of years, this has given certainty to the school.”
He added that teachers were had committed their futures to the school and that , 75 per cent of them speak Welsh and the remainder were taking courses to learn the language.
The recommendation was backed unanimously to continue with the merger.
The decision includes starting talks with the wider community as well as all the feeder primary schools from nearby villages in the Caereinion High school catchment area, on how to improve Welsh medium education provision.