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Welsh Medium school closures row rolls on

THE on-going row over the consultations on further school closures in Carmarthenshire are causing ‘significant mental health issues’ according to claims made by Carmarthenshire Labour leader Cllr Rob James.

Carmarthenshire Councillors will vote on whether to pause the current consultations on proposals to close Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau schools until after lockdown has eased.

A motion tabled by Carmarthenshire Labour Leader, Cllr Rob James, calls on Plaid Cymru Councillors to halt the ongoing school closure consultations, after parents raised concerns that carrying them out during the pandemic was impacting the child’s and parent’s mental health.

Cllr James says that in the last week he has met with parents of Ysgol Gynradd Blaenau to hear about the impact the consultation was having on their families and said that he was alarmed by the level of pressure the process was having on pupils and parents.

“Parents stated that they felt “beaten” and “mentally deflated”, with stories being told of children breaking down over the stress of the closure plans coupled with home schooling,” he said.

The Opposition Leader was also joined by Nia Griffith MP and Lee Water MS to meet with those connected with the campaign to save Mynyddygarreg.

The current consultations were launched in January and are set to close on the 21st of February, with Carmarthenshire Labour calling on Adam Price MS to intervene.

The motion also calls on the Executive Board to produce a report on the viability of Carmarthenshire schools, outlining any future school footprint changes.

Ahead of the vote, Cllr Rob James stated “It is morally wrong to place this amount of pressure on families during the pandemic. We must pause these consultations immediately.

“As an authority we have received reports of the mental impact the on-going lockdown and home schooling is having on pupils, and it is extremely surprising that Plaid Councillors felt it was appropriate to add additional pressure on them with plans to close schools.

“The deafening silence of the Adam Price MS and Jonathan Edwards MP is clear for all to see. As Plaid Cymru Leader, Adam must intervene and call on his Councillors to axe the consultations.

“I sincerely hope that the administration will listen to heart wrenching pleas from parents and pupils this week and halt the consultations, until we are in a position to support families and communities responding to these plans.”

Labour’s spokesperson for education, Cllr Gary Jones said “It appears that these school closure plans may be the tip of the iceberg.

“We know there has been talk within County Hall that schools under 150 pupils were unsustainable – that is dozens of schools in Carmarthenshire. It is time that Plaid Councillors come clean with the public and outline what schools they are looking to close next.”

The SOS Mynyddygareg campaign group have stated that they are not opposed to improvements in education and school but they question why those improvements cannot be made at the present school which serves the village, which they claim is growing in numbers.

The group have proposed alternative options including upgrading the present school, adding 21st century modular buildings to the present school or knocking down and rebuilding the present school on the same site.

The only option on the table in the consultation is based on the premise that the existing school will be closed and campaigners claim that this is not a consultation with teachers, parents and children but a pre determined decision by councillors and officers who have no idea of the importance of the school to the community and the impact the closure will have on the village.

Campaigners claim that the cost of providing enough safety such as a walk bridge over the busy bypass as well as upgrading all routes to the proposed new school outweigh the costs of focusing on the existing school. They claim that the school has been neglected and that the council have failed in their duty to maintain the school including the health, safety and wellbeing of children and staff. They are calling on the council to invest immediately in the essential works needed to make the school ‘fit for purpose’.

The council made the same claims when they wanted to move the site of the Ysgol Dewi Sant school in Llanelli to a greenfield site at Llanerch. Campaigners criticised the council for making the same claims that the school was not fit for purpose yet the children and staff remained and still remain at the school with no sign of investment.

The issue of the consultation is an emotive one, which campaigners and politicians are claiming is impacting on the health and well being of parents and children during an already difficult year of restrictions.

The family of Ray Gravell also joined in with their support and said that they wanted the council to keep the school open for future generations in Mynyddygarreg. Ray Gravell was one of the school’s most famous pupils and he fought to keep the school open during the last threat of closure.

Ffred Ffransis of Cymdeithas yr Iaeth said that the council were missing the point and that the new school should be used to move those who were not in Welsh Medium education to the school and leave an existing and successful Welsh Medium school where it is.

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