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Decision on whether to axe Welsh medium village school expected by Christmas

08 Nov 2021 3 minute read
Ysgol Mynyddygarreg, Carmarthenshire, which could close if cabinet decides to proceed with a statutory process in the coming weeks (Google Maps)

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

A decision on the future of a village school in Carmarthenshire is expected by Christmas.

Cllr Glynog Davies, Plaid Cymru cabinet member for education and children, said there have been “many, many intense discussions” about Ysgol Mynyddygarreg, north-east of Kidwelly.

Campaigners have said the Welsh medium school feels like the centre of village life and have warned that parents could opt for English-medium alternatives if the proposal was approved by cabinet.

The council has proposed discontinuing the primary school and re-designating the catchment area of Ysgol Gwenllian, Kidwelly, to include Ysgol Mynyddygarreg.

Both school sites would operate under the proposal before pupils and staff moved to a brand new Ysgol Gwenllian a couple of years down the line.

No decisions have been made as yet, but Cllr Davies said responses from an extended consultation on the controversial proposal – including business cases – have been discussed.

He was responding to a question by Ysgol Mynyddygarreg’s chair of governors, Sue Woodward, at a cabinet meeting.

She asked cabinet members to give the school certainty, adding that it was willing to work with the council and with Ysgol Gwenllian in a “soft federation” – the sharing of resources – to provide the children of Mynyddygarreg with “excellent Welsh-medium education rooted in their community”.

‘Added dilemma’ 

Cllr Davies said he acknowledged the “added dilemma” faced by Ysgol Mynyddygarreg presented by the proposal, on top of Covid pandemic ones.

He said he anticipated that a decision would be taken before the end of the calendar year.

The decision whether to proceed with the statutory process or not, he said, was “not one that the cabinet takes easily”.

He said it was encouraging that the school was “ready to be willing partners” to work with the authority and Ysgol Gwenllian.

The council’s rationale for the proposal is that Ysgol Mynyddygarreg has significant surplus places, although pupil numbers look relatively stable.

The consultation document said the school had also carried a £48,265 deficit into the 2020-21 financial year.

In response to Cllr Davies’s comments, Ms Woodward said it was more important than ever that local services were appreciated, and that keeping them was better for the environment.

After the meeting, Labour opposition leader Cllr Rob James called on Plaid Cymru councillors to work with pupils, parents and teachers and guarantee the continuation of teaching in Ysgol Mynyddygarreg and also another under-threat school – Ysgol Blaenau, north west of Ammanford – via federalisation.

Cllr James said the importance of tackling climate change was such that long journeys for pupils to access education should be avoided.

“We look forward to the cabinet making this important decision before Christmas and give the pupils the present they deserve,” he said.

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