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Council denies school closure ‘hit list’

07 Jan 2024 5 minute read
Ysgol Gynradd Talwrn is one of the schools listed on the document. Photo via Google

Martin Shipton

Anglesey County Council has denied the accuracy of a document being circulated on social media that suggests there is a “hit list” of 14 village primary schools earmarked for closure.

The document, whose provenance is uncertain, has the appearance of being an extract from an official report, but does not include the imprint of a local authority or other body.

Written in Welsh, it includes the names of 14 schools said to be facing closure. Eleven of the schools simply have “Cau” against their names, meaning “Close”.

The schools concerned are primary schools at Cemaes, Garreglefn, Llanfechell, Bedffordd, Llanbedrgoch, Talwyn, Beaumaris, Brynsiencyn, Bryngwran, Y Ffridd and Pencarnislog.

Three further schools – Gynradd Amlwch, Penysarn and Rhosybol – have “Cau – Symud i Syr Thomas Jones [Close – Move to Syr Thomas Jones]” against their names.

Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones is a secondary school in Amlwch.

Leak

Dafydd Thomas, a local supporter of Cymdeithas Yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh Language Society) has posted a message on social media that states: “During the summer of 2023, following an alleged leak of an internal Ynys Môn County Council document on school closures, the chief executive of the council issued a press release insisting that no such threat existed.

“His words were very carefully chosen, however, and he did not say that there would be no closures at all. Many on social media seemed satisfied with his statement though and might have thought the threat had disappeared.

“Through the use of freedom of information law, I can reveal that this is NOT the case. In a meeting of the council’s executive committee (18 July 2023) a policy paper (Modernising Learning Communities and Developing The Welsh Language Strategy) prepared by the Education Department following a consultation process, was adopted by the council.

“It is clear from this paper that the council wants to close some primary schools and that they have plans in one or more areas to move the pupils to the local secondary school, thus creating a school for children aged 3-16 or 18. It is also clear that plans to create a sixth form college are being discussed, thus removing pupils aged 16-18 years from their local secondary school to this central college.

“These are not new plans, however. The county council sent a delegation to two secondary schools in other parts of Wales to see how similar schools work. Who went on those delegations is not publicly known – the council has chosen to hide the names of those who were present.

“On 23 June 2016 a delegation went to a sixth form college in Gwent. Then in October 2016, a delegation went to see Ysgol Bro Teifi, Ceredigion, which is a 3-18 school. They sent a second delegation to the same school in June 2019. In one of the visits to Bro Teifi, the delegation were informed that ‘even successful small schools had to be closed’ to implement the policy. The council has confirmed that these historical visits are helping to form current plans.

“The council would like us to believe that proposed school closures are all down to lack of funding and no doubt they blame that on the Westminster government. In truth, the council has been shutting village schools for many years and plans to close even more [that] have been formed since at least 2016.

“Which schools could close? Well so far there is no definitive public list but if we think of the Ysgol Syr Thomas Jones catchment area, a list might include Penysarn, Rhosybol, Cemaes, Llanfellech, and Carreglefn for example. For Llangefni the list might include Bodffordd, Bryngwran, Gaerwen, Gwalchmai etc. Or for David Hughes, the list might include Beaumaris, Pentraeth, Benllech, or Llanddaniel. Is this guesswork? Yes it is – but we can be certain that some of these schools are under threat.

“All Anglesey communities need to ask this question: is my village school safe from council cuts? We know from experience that Anglesey council – under both Plaid Cymru and Independent control – has been keen to close schools in the past. We should be under no illusion that they will continue with this policy in some form.

“I’m sure support will be given to each threatened community by Cymdeithas yr Iaith, who have taken a strong stand against closing village schools for a number of years, understanding as they do the effect such a policy will have on the Welsh language for years to come.”

No discussions

Responding, Anglesey County Council chief executive Dylan J Williams said: “The attached paper has not originated from, nor is it [in] the ownership of Anglesey County Council. Consequently, we re-emphasise that there have been no discussions, nor is there any desire, to close over 14 Anglesey primary schools by 2030.

“We want to ensure that Anglesey has learning communities that are suitable for the next 30 years in order to provide the best possible opportunities for our children, young people and the Welsh language.

“Our recently adopted School Modernisation and Welsh Language strategy will provide the foundation needed to achieve this.”

Mr Williams added: “As an authority, we will also continue to conform with all Welsh Government expectations.”


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Dafydd Thomas
Dafydd Thomas
1 month ago

A crucially important article. The Council has been hiding behind the ‘false document’ narrative since the summer. But their own policy document – approved by the Executive Committee in July and published on their website – gives heavy hints about what the plans may be. 3-18 yrs school/s are on the cards on Ynys Môn. We just do not know how many and where they will be located. This will obviously mean some primary schools will close. Officials and councillors have already been on two visits to Ceredigion to see a similar school (in 2016 and 2019). In a FOI… Read more »

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
1 month ago

We are lied to as a matter of course by our politicians, both local and national. In so doing they are seriously undermining democracy

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