Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet this morning voted unanimously to write to the Education Minister, Jeremy Miles MS, to point out that not a single small school in Wales had received a grant from the Government’s 21st Century Schools Fund, and that this therefore contradicts the Government’s stated strategy of having a presumption in favour of rural schools.
On behalf of Cymdeithas yr Iaith in the county, Ffred Ffransis commented “We also shall be demanding that Jeremy Miles gives an explanation for this startling fact. The Minister assured Cymdeithas yr Iaith in a meeting a few weeks ago that the policy of his predecessor (Kirsty Williams) was still in force that money from the fund could be spent on upgrading existing school buildings as well as on new builds and new schools. Cymdeithas therefore pose the question ‘Are officers of the arms-length 21st Century Schools Fund Board deliberately undermining Government policy on rural schools, or are Local Authorities not applying for funds to upgrade village schools, and concentrating only on large prestige developments ?’ One or the other must be true, and rural communities are being let down and receiving no share whatsoever of the funding”
This recommendation was offered this morning to the Cabinet by the Chair of the Education Scrutiny Committee’s ‘Task & Finish Working Party” Councillor Darren Price who told the meeting that the funding outcome was inconsistent with the Government’s purported strategy of supporting rural schools. Another of the Working Party’s recommendations was also accepted that moving schools along the continuum towards Welsh-medium education should be subject to the Welsh Language u=in Education Strategy rather than to the Schools Organisation Code so that a full consultation was not required every step of the way.
Cymdeithas also fully support this proposal as the current situation massively slows the development of Welsh-medium education. We agree with Cllr Price’s assessment that this is ‘a process, not an event” YCHWANEGU – This is the time for all to unite to support the community in Mynydd-y-Garreg. Cymdeithas call on Labour councillors who genuinely support village schools such as Mynydd-y-Garreg to unite with the Plaid Cymru and Independent Councillors from Carmarthenshire Council Cabinet to press EducationMinister Jeremy Miles to explain why no grants have gone from the 21st Century Schools Fund to any small school in Wales.
Jeremy Miles has also said that the Government supports viable small schools. So what is the problem ? Is it a matter of telling some civil servants in Cardiff to implement the policy of both the Government and Plaid Cymru – who are in discussions in Cardiff Bay anyway ?
Cymdeithas have pointed out that if Carmarthenshire County Council were to include £400,000 for the repair of the roof at Mynydd-y-Garreg in the application for funding for Ysgol Gwenllian, this would add just 5% to the total grant application for the upgrading of schools in the Cydweli area. As 65% would come from Central Government, it would cost Carmarthenshire taxpayers just over £5000 per year in repayments over the loan period for the Council’s share. £5000 to ensure the future of a living Welsh community. Don’t the villages deserve some share of investment ? We call on all to get behind this demand.”