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RhAG yn beirniadu Cyngor Powys am danseilio addysg Gymraeg
(04-03-2013)

The national organisation Parents for Welsh Medium Education (RhAG) has criticised Powys Council for using wholly incorrect and inaccurate information in its consultation on proposals to close Ysgol Carno. This would ultimately would be open for challenge by judicial review.

The organisation will write to the Council on behalf of parents campaigning against closure urging them to rethink their plans and start afresh.

The proposals, which the Council have agreed to take forward are based on January 2012 data and do not reflect the recent 84% growth in pupil numbers and the consequent decrease in surplus places and cost per head of education. Under the proposals the 44 pupils currently on roll would be dispersed to neighbouring schools. The only one which can offer a comparable WM education, Ysgol Llanbrynmair located 7 miles away, is physically unable to accept all the children. The other options are a dual stream provision and English medium provision.

RhAG considers that the proposals to close one of the top three schools in the Machynlleth/Llanidloes catchment areas based on Estyn Inspection reports will be damaging to the existing provision and willl preven the growth of Welsh medium education in the north of the county. It will also undermine the requirements of the Welsh Government's Welsh Medium Education Strategy which, once legislation expected to be passed in April, [1] will place a statutory duty on all Local Authorities to grow and increase WM provision with a specific emphasis on 'increasing access for early years and primary provision within a child's community'[2].

Said Mr Michael Jones, RhAG's Legal Advisor, "It is unjustifiable that a report based on information which is completely out of date has been submitted and the recommendations adopted based upon such information. There are a number of significant and fundamental issues which need to be addressed, since the fact that due process appears not to have been followed in the conclusion to close Ysgol Carno. The APB and Dyfi Valley Workstreams' explicit recommendation was federation rather than closure, but it seems that local democratic processes have been disregarded."

Said Mr Jones, "The Cabinet Member with responsibility for the Education Portfolio is also contradicting herself when she refers to the Condition of Ysgol Carno's buildings.The Cabinet report states that Ysgol Carno received the worst condition grade, which is untrue, as Welsh Government itself graded this a B (Satisfactory) which is the same grade given to other schools in the area. It is also neither useful or constructive when the Cabinet Member is publicly quoted as labelling Ysgol Carno's condition as 'disgraceful' without ever having visited the school, fuelling concern and worry in an already emotionally charged situation."

He went on to say, "These proposals also don't fully consider the consequence closure would have on the public purse. The Council's own figures state that the transport bill would be approx 57,000 but only if transport were limited to one location. The reality is that closure could lead to parents opting for alternative provision which could drastically snowball the transport bill."


Ceri Owen, RhAG National Development Officer added, " The key consideration should be that the alternative offered to parents should be of equal or better standard. This will certainly not be the case here, as these proposals will adversely affect parental choice and equality of opportunity. Parents who send their children to Ysgol Carno have made a conscious decision to choose WM education for their children, and if the school was closed, the stark reality is that this could no longer be an option for everyone. What is also concerning is that no impact assessment has been carried out in terms of the effect this closure would have on the Welsh Language or on the wider community.There is no question that if implemented, this policy would jeopardise the development of Welsh-medium provision in this area, and stifle the recent and projected future growth."

Said Ms Owen, "Does Powys Council consider it appropriate to safeguard the Welsh language in one community at the expense of other surrounding communities? This flies in the face of national legislation and policy relating to the Welsh Language. RhAG calls upon the Cabinet Member with responsibility for education in Powys to answer this and to qualify how these proposals are considered to be in alignment with Welsh Government's vision of furthering the growth of Welsh-medium education and responding in a planned way to demand."



end



Notes

For further information please contact Ceri Owen, RhAG Development Officer on 07912175403 or ceri@rhag.net



[1] School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Bill

http://wales.gov.uk/legislation/programme/assemblybills/schoolstandards/?lang=en





[2] Welsh-medium Education Strategy, Welsh Assembly Government, Information document no: 083/2010, p.13

http://wales.gov.uk/topics/educationandskills/publications/guidance/welshmededstrat/?lang=en


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