Campaigners condemn final decision to close Welsh language school in holiday home hotspot
Language campaigners have condemned the decision to close a Welsh language school in a holiday home hotspot.
Despite receiving 211 objections and two petitions opposing the proposal to close Ysgol Abersoch at the end of this year, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet today unanimously voted to close the school on 31 December.
The Education Department had expressed concerns about the low numbers of the school, with 76% of the school capacity empty.
But the school has been criticised by groups including Cymdeithas yr Iaith, with spokesman Ffred Ffransis describing the authority’s approach as “blinkered” and that Abersoch was already suffering from a holiday home problem.
Responding to the decision, Ffred Ffransis said that the council had undermined its own housing and language policies and “abandoned” the community.
“Throughout the process, the Council has ignored the voices of the community and refused to consider alternatives that would have enabled the school to remain open as part of a federation,” he said.
“The Council’s own assessments acknowledged that closing the school would have a negative impact on the Welsh language and the community, yet they have ignored them.
“They have betrayed this vulnerable community and undermined their hopes of using the school as a basis for the revival of the Welsh language locally.
“We are further concerned that the Council intends to sell the school building, which means that neither Cylch Meithrin nor Cylch Ti a Fi could continue there and are likely to be moved out of the village as well.
“The future of our communities is the future of its schools, and our county councils must bear that in mind if they are serious about the future of the Welsh language. ”
The Council had received 211 objections to the plans in consultation, with general comments stating that the school “supports village life” and that closing its doors would have a “negative impact on the village and the Welsh language”.
As a result of the closure of the school, the ten pupils will be offered a place at Ysgol Sarn Bach in the nearby village from January, and the authority is now preparing to improve its transport and learning resources there.
Cemlyn Williams, Cabinet Member for Education, said that they understood that this has been a “difficult time” for those involved with the school.
Garem Jackson, Head of the Education Department, added that they had “evaluated the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats” of all the options, before proposing to close the school.
However, Dewi Wyn Roberts, Councilor for Abersoch, said closing the school would have a “serious impact” on the local community and the Welsh language.
“Deciding on the future of any school is not easy and the Council understands that this has been a difficult time for everyone involved with Ysgol Abersoch,” said a Gwynedd Council spokeswoman.
“With a capacity of 34, in September 2020 there were eight children attending the school full time and two nursery pupils. The projections do not indicate a significant increase in pupil numbers over the next few years.
“The Council held detailed discussions on the vulnerability of the school due to low pupil numbers. There followed a period of statutory consultation and more recently a period of statutory objection.
“We are grateful to all those who have contributed to the discussions on the future of Ysgol Abersoch including pupils, staff and governors as well as the individuals who have contributed to the statutory consultation and objection periods.
“It is a matter of sadness when the future of any school has to be considered. However, the Council has a duty to ensure that it offers the best possible education and experiences for our children.
“After detailed consideration of all the objections received as part of the statutory objection period, it was decided that Ysgol Abersoch should close at the end of 2021.
“As part of the decision, the pupils will be offered to attend Ysgol Sarn Bach which is located nearby from January 2022 onwards.
“There has been a clear desire in the village of Abersoch to see the continuation of the school, and every effort will be made to ensure that there is a clear link between the Abersoch community and Ysgol Sarn Bach where many Abersoch pupils already attend from Year 4 onwards.”