Council approves closure of school with just 19 pupils
Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter
Senior councillors have approved the closure of a rural primary school with just 19 pupils.
The decision was confirmed at a meeting of Powys County Council’s Cabinet today (23 January) after councillors received a report following a consultation on the proposal to close Irfon Valley primary school in Garth, between Builth Wells and Llangammarch Wells.
Pupil numbers at the school have dropped to 19 this academic year. There were 43 children attending the school as recently as January 2023.
Pupil numbers are projected to drop to 14 from next September.
The consultation on the proposal took place between October 26 and December 7 last year. The council received 48 responses, but the report does not specify how many were in favour or against the proposals.
Director of education, Lynette Lovell said: “The key factor here is that as it stands there are only 19 pupils in the school, and five of those will be leaving.”
“It would be very close to the statutory number of 10 where a school really does need to be looked at in terms of closure.”
She thanked the school staff and governors for their “professionalism” during the consultation process.
Council leader, Liberal Democrat Cllr James Gibson-Watt said: “It’s a sombre decision we take with heavy hearts.”
“It is worth emphasising that it is the school governors that approached the council around the fall in pupil numbers and their concerns about the future viability of the school.”
Cabinet member for a connected Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman drew attention to the comments made on the issue by the county councillor for the area, Cllr Bryan Davies, which were included in the report.
Cllr Berriman said: “They probably reflect all our sentiments.
“This is an inevitable conclusion to the situation that has been left for us.”
Independents for Powys, Cllr Bryan Davies said: “I was disappointed that the pupil numbers in the school fell so quickly over the summer causing the authority to review the schools viability.
“During the consultation period I had discussions with members of the community who in general were very disappointed but understanding of the council’s proposal to close the school at the end of the current school year.
“The staff at the school are excellent as detailed in the last Estyn report and I hope that the authority will support the staff in gaining new positions in other schools.”
Councillors unanimously voted to approve the statutory notice for closure by August 31, with pupils expected to move to their nearest alternative school.
The proposal to close the school had come out of the blue – and follows the school governors approaching the council for help last summer.
It was found that the main problem at the school was a lack of an after-school club and the convenience that gives parents. As a result, children moved other nearby schools where this is provided.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.