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Campaign group formed to save Welsh medium primary school

12 Feb 2021 3 minute read
Picture by the Welsh Government

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

A campaign group has been formed to fight the threat of closing a rural Welsh medium primary school at Pen-y-Bont Fawr in the Tanat Valley.

Ymgyrch Achub Ysgol Pennant (Campaign to save Pennant School) will lead the fight to stop the school’s closure.

Back in September, 2020, the Independent/Conservative Cabinet agreed to go ahead with a Programme Business Case for the reorganisation of the Llanfyllin catchment area.

This could mean closure for the 82 pupil Ysgol Pennant, which serves the the villages Penybontfawr, Llangynog, Hirnant and Llanwddyn.

Lucy Worthington, Chair of Ymgyrch Achub Ysgol Pennant (YAYP), said: “The support from the whole community has been incredible – we are all committed to fighting this flawed plan and process which we believe would have a devastating effect on the growth of the Welsh language as well as taking the heart out of our close knit community.”

Ysgol Pennant in the village of Pen-Y-Bont Fawr

The group have been working with Welsh language pressure group Cymdeithas Yr Iaith, the Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, and have met politicians including Russell George MS, Craig Williams MP and Cllr Elwyn Vaughan, Plaid Cymru’s Senedd Election Candidate in Montgomeryshire, to voice their concerns.

Ms Worthington said : “We are concerned that a proposal paper identifying and evaluating all the alternative options to closing the school may not have been produced and that PCC may therefore have not complied with the School Organisation Code.”

The Code states that that local authorities should start any investigation with a presumption in favour of retaining rural schools.

‘Welsh language’ 

Ms Worthington added: “We are passionate about the importance of Welsh language education and the growth of the language – however, rather than encourage the language to flourish, we feel that these plans would have a negative effect and endanger the growth of the language in our area.”

She also believes due to travelling patterns it’s unlikely that parents would take their children to Llanrhaeadr-yn-Mochnant primary school.

As an effect of the transformation plans and the threat of closure for Ysgol Pennant, a capital grant funding of £200,000 awarded to Cylch Meithrin Penybontfawr was withdrawn in September.

But following pressure from the Cylch Meithrin and local councillors, it was promised that the withdrawn grant money will now be ringfenced.

Rhian Briscoe, a member of YAYP representing Cylch Meithrin Penybontfawr, said: “As Welsh medium early years specialists the cylch meithrin  is a fundamental part of the immersive experience that enables children of all backgrounds to become fully bilingual in Wales.”

PCC’s preferred option is that a new Welsh medium primary school would be established at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant Primary School, with an expectation that pupils from Ysgol Pennant would go there.

If this happened it is likely that Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant would need an extension to the school building

It had been expected that the Llanfyllin catchment area proposals would have been back in front of the cabinet in December.

A spokesman for Powys County Council, said: “A report on the Llanfyllin catchment area will be considered by Cabinet next month  (March).”

Before any final decision are made  proposals would be subject to a “full and transparent consultation” with all schools and communities.

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