Dad angry that Welsh speaking school is better than his children’s English school says unearthed letter proves his case
Richard Evans, local democracy reporter
A dad angry that Welsh-speaking pupils enjoy better school facilities than English-speaking children on the other side of a playground fence has pointed to a letter by a former headteacher which he says proves his case.
Dad Chris Calvert, 45, has a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter attending Rhos Street, Ruthin but says the Welsh-speaking school next door is better equipped.
He put in a Freedom Of Information request for more information, the result of which he says makes his point about the “disparity” between the two schools.
The FoI led to the release of a letter to Denbighshire Council back in 2018 in which former headteacher Bryn Jones criticised the space afforded to English language Rhos Street School’s playground, saying it was “not fit for purpose”.
Rhos Street School and Ysgol Pen Barras are built on the same site on Ffordd Glasdir, but the children are kept apart at break-time. Costing around £11.2m, both schools opened four years ago.
But since the opening in 2018, some parents have persistently complained the Welsh-speaking school has a better playground, in terms of space, adequate drainage and the play area.
In his letter to a council officer, dated 24 April 2018, Mr Bryn Jones wrote: “You may recall me stating my reservations, when we walked around the site on the Monday before we officially opened for pupils, regarding the disproportionate amount of outdoor space apportioned to both schools.
“Having seen the school in action now for over a fortnight, it has become clear that the amount of outdoor space for Foundation Phase pupils here at Rhos Street pupils is insufficient and arguably not fit for purpose. It would be useful for you to come and observe lunchtime play, to see how the confined space that we have for these pupils is restrictive and potentially dangerous, which has led to a number of minor injuries. I will raise this and discuss further when we meet on Monday but wanted to bring it to your attention now, while I continue to monitor the situation.”
He added: “I am greatly concerned, that as our numbers increase as anticipated, we will be further restricted by the amount of space we have been given, as the number of pupils accessing those restricted areas become ever greater.
“I am very frustrated that while Pen Barras’ external plans were changed from those shared with us in the consultation, to free up more space by moving their bat loft onto what is meant to be both schools’ designated shared field area, that we were not afforded the same opportunity to move ours and open up a significant amount of additional yard space, which would have alleviated some of the problems I am highlighting now.”
‘Says it all’
Denbighshire Council said changes had been made to the playground since the letter was written, although parents have still expressed concerns about the current situation.
Dad Chris Calvert said: “As a father it makes me feel extremely saddened and frustrated, not just for my own children but for every child at Rhos Street.
“The very fact that the headteacher pointed out it wasn’t fit for purpose before the school even opened says it all. This has been ongoing since April 2018. This information would never have been provided had I not used the Freedom of Information Act to request the correspondence.
“Many other parents have expressed their frustrations regarding the situation. It seems there is nobody held responsible or accountable for this at Denbighshire County Council. It’s clear to see the children at Rhos Street have been badly let down and continue to be.”
A spokesman for Denbighshire County Council commented: “The new school building for Rhos Street School was subject to the same process as all other new school builds, which involves input from the headteacher, the school and governors during the design and planning process.
“As is common with new builds, there were minor issues reported by Rhos Street School and Ysgol Pen Barras following the move to the new premises in April 2018.
“The council had representations from the headteacher of Rhos Street School in relation to the availability of external space for pupils, some of which was space children could not play on, such as landscaped areas, which had been included in the plans throughout the process.
“Following this, the council worked with the school to look at options for extending the yard and developed the required designs for approval.
“The council identified additional funding of £200,000 to enable the extension of the yard and work was completed during the summer of 2021.
“Minor issues with puddles on the yard were highlighted and the council has worked with the school and the contractor to resolve these issues.
“The space per meter per pupil in external spaces in Rhos Street School and Ysgol Pen Barras were very similar when the schools opened at approximately 10m squared per pupil.
“The new yard at Rhos Street School has increased further the space available which is now higher than at Ysgol Pen Barras, which has more pupils, at approximately 13m squared per pupil.”
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