Fate of Welsh language school in holiday home hotspot to be decided next week
Gareth Wyn Williams, local democracy reporter
The fate of a Welsh language primary school will be sealed next week amid claims that closure would leave the holiday home hotspot as a “ghost town” for chunks of the year.
Just shy of its 100th birthday after opening in 1924, Ysgol Abersoch will shut its doors at the end of 2021 if approved by the council’s cabinet.
If members approve the officers’ recommendation, the eight full time and two nursery pupils would be provided with free transport to Ysgol Sarn Bach from January.
According to number crunchers the school currently costs the authority £17,404 per head – over four times the county average of £4,198.
But closure has been criticised by groups including Cymdeithas yr Iaith, which described Gwynedd Council’s approach as “blinkered” and that Abersoch was already suffering from a holiday home problem.
A recent consultation attracted over 200 responses as well as two separate petitions, each containing 1,115 and 1,884 signatures against shutting the school.
One respondent claimed that leaving Abersoch without a primary school would result in it becoming “a holiday place for tourists for a few months a year and a ghost town for the remainder.”
Another said, “without the school Abersoch has no focal point, the very heart and soul will have disappeared.”
The school can hold 32 but is operating at only a quarter of its capacity despite the village having a full-time population of 783, with projections showing that pupil numbers would grow only slightly over the coming years.
Also, it was stated that of the 26 eligible children living in the catchment area, 21 were currently being educated at schools other than Abersoch.
Cllr Cemlyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, said: “Making a decision on the future of any school is not easy and we fully appreciate that this has been a difficult period for everyone connected with the school.
“I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the discussions on the future of Ysgol Abersoch including the pupils, staff and governors, as well as those who have contributed to the consultation and statutory objection periods.
“It is always sad when the future of any school is under consideration. However, we have a duty to ensure that we offer the best possible education and experiences along with the best possible learning environment.
“Having fully considered all objections, it is recommended to confirm the proposal to close Ysgol Abersoch at the end of 2021.
“There is naturally a desire in Abersoch to see the school continuing, and every effort will be made to ensure that there will be a strong link between the community and Ysgol Sarn Bach.”
The school currently educates children up to the age of eight before they transfer to Ysgol Sarn Bach, based 1.4 miles away.
But any closure would see the children receive the entirety of their primary education at Sarn Bach.
Speaking in June, cabinet member Ioan Thomas claimed “it made no sense” that a school would only educate children up to the age of eight, while pointing to the vast discrepancy in the spend per pupil compared to others.
But Cllr Dewi Wyn Roberts, who represents Abersoch on the authority, has consistently argued against closure, claiming it would result in the loss of a “historic resource” in the village.
“Recently I was listening to the Planning Committee discussing the erection of 12 houses in the Penygroes area and that there is a local demand for this type of development for local people,” he added.
“One of the concerns raised was the capacity of local schools to accept more children that will increase with this development. It highlights the fact that resources within society are important within upcoming plans.
“This decision is completely opposite to the Council’s ambition.
“The decision to close the school is unwise but to close the school in the middle of the school year and move the children to another school does not make any sense and will have a negative impact on the children’s education, if it will have to close then why not defer it until the end of the school year?”
A decision is expected when the cabinet meets next Tuesday, September 28.
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What will Cyngor Gwynedd do with the building?
Would make a nice holiday home to put on AirBNB!
I know from personal experience that changing schools in the middle of the school year is a bad thing to do but this closure is about a few quid and not what is best for the children…plain and simple, but so many schools have been closed in Gwynedd in the last few years that I expect council hearts have become hardened to this fact…
Dyma wir pris twristiaeth! Dim cartrefi i bobl lleol, dim teuluoedd, dim ysgolion lleol!
It’s time to stop incomers and take all second homes of incomers and give them to young welsh people who can’t get on the housing market because of incomers it’s time for a new wales 🏴 stop being little Englanders and be proud to be welsh it’s time for a Free Wales 🏴
Why doesnt Gwynnedd council impose a tax hike on holiday homes do they not have a policy of affodable homes for locals ? Is this council run by little Englanders ?if the locals want yo keep their school then taxing the holiday home owners is one way of increasing money towards keeping the school open if Gwynedd council have the political will to do so wales us not a playground for the Emmets
Gwynedd Council already tax holiday homes at the maximum amount they are allowed to charge owners within the law so they can hardly be called Little Englanders.
Tourism and 2nd homes are bad for Wales and should be taxed. But is Abersoch facing changing demographics as well? Welsh mothers no longer want children. 4 used to be common, no more. So schools (and chapels/churches) empty. In Dinas Cross in N.Pembs, a tourism area where I live and went to school, the school is now a community centre providing ping-pong for oldies, a lively local history society etc. Fine, but where are the children? You can blame the English for many things, but its not all their fault.