Council didn’t give Welsh language ‘full consideration’ with school closure plan
A council did not give the Welsh language “full consideration” as it proposed the closure of a school, a report has concluded.
An investigation launched by the Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts, found that Rhondda Cynon Taf County Council broke three standards when consulting over the closure of Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Pont Sion Norton.
The probe was prompted by a complaint from a parent member of the Pontio’r Gymraeg yn Lleol campaign group, which was concerned that the plans would have a detrimental effect on the Welsh language in the communities of north Pontypridd.
The plans, now proposed for 2024, will see the closing of Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Pont Sion Norton, which would mean that children from the communities in the north of Pontypridd wanting a Welsh medium primary education will transfer to new school on the existing site of Heol y Celyn Primary School in Rhydyfelin, many miles to the south.
While they fully support the need to invest in a new building for Ysgol Gymraeg Pont Sion Norton, parents and supporters argue that the travelling distance to the new site is likely to discourage parents from choosing a Welsh medium education, and would therefore have a detrimental effect on the Welsh language in the area.
The Commissioner found that consultation document did not include specific questions seeking views on how the policy under consideration could be developed or adapted so that it would have positive effects on the Welsh language.
Nor did the document adequately discuss, propose options, consider or provide information on how it would be possible to develop or review the decision so that it would have positive effects, or reduce negative impacts, on the Welsh language.
A spokesperson for the Welsh Language Commissioner said: “The Commissioner received a complaint about Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s proposal to close Ysgol Pont Sion Norton and build a new Welsh-medium school on the existing Ysgol Heol y Celyn site in Rhydfelen by 2022.
“The basis of the complaint was an allegation that the Council had not given full consideration in the consultation to the potential impact on the Welsh language in communities in north Pontypridd.
“The Council has a duty, through Welsh language standards, to consider and seek views on possible impact on the Welsh language when consulting on policy decisions.
“The complaint created doubt as to whether the consultation document met the requirements of the Welsh language standards.”
On behalf of Pontio’r Gymraeg yn Lleol, mother-of-four, Lowri Chinnock-Davies said; “Although the Council has stated they will not undertake further consultation, it is hoped that they carefully reflect on the findings of this report and appropriately consult with the parents and communities of the affected areas and fully consider the impact of removing Welsh language education from these local communities.
“Throughout the process we have specified other local sites for development which could be considered but instead they have ploughed ahead with plans to build a new school outside of the catchment area because they are freeing up a site.
“We will continue to call for improvements to Welsh medium early years and primary school provision within the communities of Ynysybwl, Glyncoch, Coed y Cwm, Trallwn and Cilfynydd to ensure that the language continues to grow and thrive and is accessible to all.”
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Council has been asked for a response.