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Powys County Council branded “uncaring” as they vote for school closure

A STRONG defence will be made to keep Llanbedr Church in Wales (CIW) primary school open.

At a meeting of the Powys County Council (PCC) Cabinet on Tuesday, February 9, local county councillor John Morris, slammed the proposal to close it.

He believed that it showed an “uncaring” approach from the cabinet and council towards its people and children for going ahead with the process during a pandemic.

The decision to close the school, which is in the Vale of Grwyney near Crickhowell, could save the Council just over £101,000 a year.

Cllr Morris (Crickhowell – Liberal Democrat) said: “Myself and the whole community were quite shocked by the decision to progress this at a time when we are in lockdown, and the whole community are exhausted from the effects of Covid.

“I have spoken to a great number of people from within the community, and they are extremely angry at what they perceive as an uncaring attitude by the Cabinet and senior officers in bringing this forward at this time.”

He read out a letter from a school governor, who said: “The current action of the local authority is imposing an additional burden of worry and uncertainty and trauma for children who have already been through so much.”

 “The psychological effects of the pandemic on youngsters could not be fully understood yet.

“Therefore it does not seem to be an appropriate time for a responsible local authority to take action which risks imposing further damage on some of the most vulnerable in our community.”

Cllr Morris pointed out that the Vale of Grwyney struggles with digital connectivity.

“The strategy is an inspirational document, one would expect that the process would be fair – we’re not convinced it is,” said Cllr Morris.

He added that reorganising the Crickhowell catchment area was  “not on the horizon yet”.

Cllr Morris said: “It begs the question why take this in isolation when there is no plan for the whole area?

“There is a fine line between in making tough decisions in the interest of Powys residents, and a cabinet and council who are out of touch an uncaring in it’s approach to it’s people and children.”

If they took the decision, Cllr Morris believed they had crossed the line.

The cost per pupil at the school is £5,948 which compares to the Powys averag of  £4,264 per pupil

Adult Social Care and Welsh Language portfolio holder, Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, said: “Looking through the documents, the one thing that struck me is the extremely high cost per pupil of education in these schools.

“I wonder if pupils in some of our larger schools are having a raw deal out of the funding in the way it’s currently applied?

“I know schools where the per pupil spend is not far above half (of £4,264) and those youngsters have rights.”

Education consultant, Geraint Rees, said that the fairness of funding is one of the “significant challenges faced by Powys”.

He said that it wasn’t the total amount spent on pupils but the way it was shared out across the schools.

On Llanbedr, Mr Rees pointed out that the school could take up to 57 pupils while it had around 40 pupils which means it has empty spaces.

“This is replicated across the authority leads to the narrative of spend per pupil,” said Mr Rees.

He added that dealing with individual school cases helped the overall strategy of transforming schools.

Mr Rees added: “At most Llanbedr can host two classes, it has a Foundation Phase, and a Key Stage Two class.”

“With the numbers that they have it poses the usual problem that small schools have in terms of the opportunity for children to take part in team sports, and larger events, unless there’s a a close collaboration with neighbouring schools.”

The Cabinet went ahead an unanimously backed the officer recommendation to close Llanbedr CIW School from August  31, 2022, with
pupils to transfer to their nearest alternative schools.

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