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School closures have been part of an effective programme to improve education in one part of Powys, a councillor has said amid ongoing plans to shut several county primaries.

In recent weeks, school reorganisation proposals put forward by the Independent/Conservative administration and spearheaded by Tory portfolio holder for education Councillor Phyl Davies have come in for criticism from other Conservatives.

Montgomeryshire MP, Craig Williams has been critical of changes that will see Ysgol Bro Hyddgen in Machynlleth become a Welsh medium school.

While further south in Brecon and Radnorshire, both Conservative MP, Fay Jones and MS James Evans have criticised proposals to close Llanfihangel Rhydithon and Llanbedr primary schools.

There is even opposition within the cabinet itself.

Cllr Iain McIntosh the portfolio holder for Housing, Planning and Economic Regeneration, is fighting proposals that would see Cradoc Primary school in his ward close and merged with others in Brecon.

On Thursday, July 8, the Learning and Skill scrutiny committee discussed the consultation response to proposals to close 23 pupil Castel Caereinion Church in Wales primary school.

Cllr Sandra Davies said: “I do have empathy with parents, children and communities where school closures are mentioned.

“I have first-hand experience of this.

“I have fought and campaigned to maintain the 12 schools that were in the Ystradgynlais area at one time and succeeded.”

But a few years later school reorganisation proposals in the Ystradgynlais area re-emerged and the 12 primary schools became four.

“Parents were up in arms, people were angry and agitated,” said Cllr Davies.,

Cllr Davies said: “I can compare and contrast between the two and I see improvements in a big school.

“I can assure you as far as the children in the Ystradgynlais area are concerned there have been real improvements and advantages in youngsters having the ability to learn alongside their peers in bigger classrooms.”

She also believed that the financial argument needed to be made and it was unfair to have some schools receiving thousands of pounds more in funding per pupil than others.

During 2020-21 each pupil at Castle Caereinion cost £6,919 compared to the Powys average of £4,264.

Cllr Davies said: “Surely money should be shared throughout all the schools in Powys so that every child deserves the same or as near as possible.”

Education portfolio holder Cllr Phyl Davies said: “I’d like to thank Cllr Sandra for her comments.

“There were a lot of key points that she made that really do hit home about the transformation agenda.

“It really is heartening to hear how Cllr Sandra saw it from before transformation and the way she sees it now.

“What we’ve all got to remember is the learner experience, it’s such an emotive topic, everyone is going to want to retain their local school, but change has to happen.”

The Independent/Conservative cabinet will decide Castle Caereinion’s future at their meeting on Tuesday, July 13.

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