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Llanfair Caereinion school merger proposals “flawed’ claims councillor

A PROPOSAL to merge a primary and secondary school in Llanfair Caereinion has been “called in” for scrutiny because the decision is seen as “flawed”.

Earlier this month Powys County Council’s (PCC) ruling Independent/Conservative coalition agreed to go ahead with merging  Llanfair Caereinion Primary School and Caereinion High School creating an all-through four to 18-year-olds’ school

They had also agreed to explore the further development of Welsh language education and also including primary schools in the wider catchment area as part of this consultation.

But the decision has been made without any scrutiny,

Learning and Skills scrutiny committee Chairman, Cllr Pete Roberts, (Llandrindod South – Liberal Democrat) said: “I have received a response from a scrutiny committee member outlining a significant number of concerns.”

Cllr Roberts believes that if the proposals had been looked at by the scrutiny committee, their recommendations could have shaped the Cabinet decision.

Cllr Roberts said:  “It is in the best interests of pupils, staff and the wider transformation project that this matter is subjected to scrutiny sooner rather than later.”

One of the issues raised is that the scrutiny of decisions made as part of the Transformation of Powys Schools strategy has been “limited.”

Early feasibility work on having a Welsh Medium secondary school in North Powys had identified Newtown or Welshpool as the most suitable location.

The merger decision and call for wider consultation on turning the all through Llanfair Caereinion school into a Welsh-medium one would seem to put it ahead of any proposals to create a Welsh-medium secondary school elsewhere.

The belief that all current secondary school sites must be kept in some form as part of the transformation process is challenged.

The report says that the strategic aim to “develop a network of all-age schools based around the 13 current secondary school locations”  has not been scrutinised properly.

According to the documents, there are “close” to 400 free spaces at secondary schools in North Powys.

The report says: “It is universally recognised that fewer larger centres are better placed to provide the broader choice of higher education required now and in the future.

“The remit prevents any sustainable, economically and educationally beneficial developments in Powys.”

The report says that the cabinet’s decision to forge ahead with the merger and different consultation has fallen foul of one of the conditions for call in.

It says: “The Cabinet or decision-maker had not followed agreed procedures or failed to consult (where required) before reaching its decision.”

The report points to problems with the consultation process which saw only 52 per cent agreeing with the all through school proposal.

It points to the lack of consultation with Caereinion High School feeder schools, but that comments from governors of Welsh-medium schools in Newtown, Ysgol Dafydd Llwyd (Newtown) and Ysgol Gymraeg y Trallwng (Welshpool) had been received.

The report says: “This is dangerously weak evidence of support for the proposal.”

The report also doubts that the saving of £11,994 from the amalgamation would materialise.

The report said: “It is suggested here that the cost of drafting and consulting on this proposal probably exceeds this possible saving.”

Cllr Roberts said: “Fundamentally this decision should be reconsidered because it is flawed.

“The full range of possible options for educational transformation in North Powys have not been considered.”

The call-in will be discussed by the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Monday, February 1.

Before the call, it had expected to close the schools on August 31, 2022, and open the all through school on September 1, 2022.

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