Closing schools on the border could see more pupils lost to English schools
Elgan Hearn – Local Democracy Reporter
Warnings have been made that “great damage” could be done to the Welsh language on the border with England if pupils are lost to Shropshire schools.
The preferred way forward to re-jig education in the Llanfyllin/north Welshpool catchment areas was made public last week.
At a meeting of the Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, September 20 – all the potential proposals were examined.
The schools of Ysgol Bro Cynllaith (Llansilin) Llangedwyn and Bryn Hafren (Crew Green) primary schools are earmarked to be closed in phases.
An extension could be built at Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant primary school, as a long term ambition stated in the documents is that this school “moves along the language continuum” and could become a Welsh medium school.
Currently it has around the same number of pupils in both Welsh and English education streams.
At the meeting, Conservative county councillor Lucy Roberts represents Crew Green which includes Bryn Hafren primary school.
She pointed out that there is a very strong Welsh ethos and culture at the school with “all” the pupils joining the Urdd youth organisation.
Cllr Roberts said: “Yet many of those pupils will move over the border to English schools if Bryn Hafren closes.
“Most of the parents work in Shropshire and it’s much easier for them to drop their children off as they go over the border than go in the opposite direction to the Four Crosses area.”
At a meeting of the council’s Cabinet on Tuesday September 19, education portfolio holder Cllr Pete Roberts had spoken of the possibility of bringing children with a Welsh background living in Shropshire and especially around Oswestry, into Powys to be educated in Welsh.
He made the comments as the Cabinet approved the Marches Strategic Forward Partnership which is an agreement with other authorities along the Wales/England border to collaborate in a number of areas.
Plaid Cymru’s Cllr Bryn Davies asked Cllr Roberts to explain how this could be achieved?
Cllr Roberts said: “It’s very much in my mind that we need to bring forward Welsh medium provision in some shape in this northeast corner (of Powys).”
He believed that children from Oswestry could travel to a Welsh medium school along “the A483 corridor” if the provision were there.
Cllr Roberts said: “But there are too many things to discuss at this point to bring forward a firm proposal other than to say we want to actively develop the Cylch (Meithrin) and Ti a Fi provision in that area.”
He stressed: “This is very early stages and an opportunity to have more discussion.”
Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies represents and area where two of the schools under threat Bro Cynllaith (Llansilin) and Llangedwyn.
Cllr Davies said: “It’s a bit previous for you to be highlighting this when there are no formal plans to do anything.
“This will do great damage to the Welsh language right along the border.
“There’s potentially schools closing, and their nearest schools will be in Oswestry or nearby villages.”
He asked whether the council would have to pay for the transport to take these children to their nearest school in Shropshire.
Cllr Davies also pointed out that Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant is nearly 10 miles away from Llansilin.
Cllr Roberts responded: “In respect to Bro Cynllaith it’s quite simple we are naming Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant as the receiving school.”
“By naming a particular school as the nearest suitable school – everything else is parental choice.”
School transformation manager Marianne Evans explained that when schools are closed, under the home to school transport policy children can receive free transport to the “named receiving school” even if it’s not the closest.
Ms Evans said: “We wish to keep all pupils in Powys that’s why we’re naming Llanrhaeadr and we’re saying Bryn Hafren’s alternative school is in Powys.”
Cabinet is expected to agree the “preferred way forward” at their meeting Tuesday, September 26.
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