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Petition launched after 17 children refused place at rural school

02 May 2024 6 minute read
View towards the old Daren Felin School, Llanelly Hill across Clydach Gorge by Alan Bowring is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Stephen Price

Families in a rural corner of Monmouthshire have launched a petition after 17 children were denied places at their local primary school.

Gilwern Primary, situated in Giwern, between the towns of Abergavenny and Brynmawr, has long been the school of choice for nearby families who would have previously attended primary schools in Clydach and Darenfelin on Llanelly Hill which were both closed in recent decades.

The petition was set up by ‘Hopeful Gilwern parents’ following recent announcements of children’s primary school allocations.

According to the parents, 17 out of 47 families “have been left in impossible and distressing circumstances after not receiving places at Gilwern Primary”.

The petition shares that the vast majority of these families have children who:

  • Live in catchment, many within Gilwern village itself, or have Gilwern as their nearest school. Children living in catchment, only a 0.7 mile walk away have been rejected on grounds of distance.
  • Have siblings and / or parents as staff at Gilwern Primary. Working parents are having to work out how to get children to two schools 20 minutes apart.
  • Have attended Hopscotch Primary, on the same site as Gilwern Primary.

The families are also concerned that the school admissions codes and criteria have not been correctly applied.

According to the petition, Gilwern Primary School “is fully supportive of our appeals and would welcome all our children with open arms, should the council enable them to do so”.

The writers state: “It seems to us that adequate provision has not been made for our village. With so many children living under a mile away, let alone further afield in the catchment. Seventeen out of forty seven children is not just a few outliers.”

Nearby school closures

Until recently, local parents – some of whom attended the closed down schools or moved to the area recently with young children – were reassured that their children would be able to attend their nearest school, which is Gilwern.

With this no longer an option for many, families are faced with applying for schools out of county, in Blaenau Gwent or Powys, or driving past Gilwern to schools in Abergavenny or Llanfoist.

The petition says: “There seems to be a great deal of pressure on our local schools, with those locally being over subscribed. The closure of both Darenfelin and Clydach schools surely had an impact.

“Parents who were reassured that their feeder school would be Gilwern Primary are now being sent many miles away. The emotional, logistical, financial and environmental impact of this is huge.

“The still yet to be finished King Henry Super school is not a viable option for many in the village. For this to be prioritised over an established and respected school, in an area growing in population is unacceptable.”

Further concerns

Besides unfamiliar surroundings and the pressures of further distances, many families are are also concerned that children will not have a place in their local school or with their siblings.

The writers say: “They have grown up seeing the older children go into Gilwern Primary, they are familiar with the site. They have formed friendships and bonds with their peers.

“Parents have formed support networks that are vital to balance family life with work, especially for those of us without family support. None of this can be replicated or replaced if the children are educated outside our community.”

“Especially considering the social isolation that accompanied the first few years of these children’s lives, it is is vitally important that they remain within the communities they have formed, for their well-being and for that of their families.

“This is an issue that will reoccur year after year if support is not given to our community schools. We are hoping that we can show how important this issue is and encourage our local councillors to ensure small, successful schools are supported and communities are listened to.

“We hope that we can persuade them to allow the extra class that Gilwern Primary is willing and able to accommodate.”

“Ghost towns”

One concerned parent, who asked not to be named so as not to jeopardise any appeal, told Nation.Cymru: “The villages of Blackrock, Llanelly Hill, Clydach and Maesygwartha have already suffered enough with the loss of two primary schools, and this has had a huge knock on effect for everyone in the village.

“It’s unthinkable for us to now not be eligible for the nearest school after ours were taken away.

“So many young people from the area have moved away to nearby towns to make life easier, and these villages will be like ghost towns or viable only for retirees if no new blood is encouraged.”

“It’s already enough of a slog getting to Gilwern twice a day.

“To double or triple that journey is not only going to be more stress and time apart for the whole family, but things like seeing friends after school or extra-curricular activities will be a daily struggle – it just feels like such an attack on rural living and it’s our children that will suffer the most.”

Council response

A spokesperson from Monmouthshire County Council said: “We recognise that a number of families who applied for Gilwern Primary School will be disappointed by the outcome of this year’s application round. This year, there have been more applications to Gilwern Primary School than there are available places. We have seen greater demand this year, with 47 requests for 30 available places.

“In such circumstances, the Council’s School Admissions Policy determines that the published oversubscription criteria will be applied to select the successful applicants. Unfortunately, 17 applicants have been unsuccessful in obtaining places after applying the oversubscription criteria.

“The accommodation at Gilwern Primary School is currently suitable for 210 pupils and 30 per year group. The Council is also aware of the requirements to comply with Infant class size regulations, which state that there must be no more than 30 children in an infant class where there is only one qualified teacher.

“We will continue to support the 17 families that have been unsuccessful in obtaining places at Gilwern Primary School and have already identified school places for each child at alternative schools within the Abergavenny cluster.”

Read the petition in full here.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
20 days ago

Demographics not going the council’s way, who suffers…not the council…

Last edited 20 days ago by Mab Meirion

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