Education officers defend approach to reorganisation

Education officers have defended the dual approach they are taking to reorganisation education in Powys, which looks at both high school catchment areas and individual schools.

Castle Caereinion School Sign
Castle Caereinion School Sign

One of these individual schools is Castle Caereinion Church in Wales primary school which is part of the Llanfair Caerenion catchment area which could close at the end of August 2022.

It may take years before the Llanfair Caerenion catchment area is reviewed.

The Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Thursday, looked at the issue when discussing consultation response on the school closure proposal.

Committee member and school governor Graham Robson said: “Once again we’re looking at individual schools.

“A few years ago, we were informed by officers that the plan would be to review the whole of Powys education provision with a view of covering all schools and put us on a roadmap to the next decade.

“It’s sad that this ambition has been dropped and we’re back to multiple single school reviews and the bunfight that entails.

Committee chairman, Cllr Peter Roberts remembers initial briefings on the idea of transforming schools in Powys and that had included looking at a “multi-site” school.

That school is based on the former secondary school in Dolgellau, Gwynedd, which has all the primary schools in the catchment area coming under its management and was seen as a blueprint for Powys to follow.

Cllr Roberts said: “That vision is not in any of the options for this school.

“There’s no suggestion that it will become part of a school in the wider area and it’s concerning that is not showing as an option or why it’s been discounted, can anyone explain to us the apparent change in direction?”

School transformation manager, Marianne Evans, said: “It’s not a change of direction.

“The strategy that was approved last year states quite clearly that strategic aim one, is to improve learner entitlement.

“Within that there are two objectives.

“One, is to establish a network of all age schools and the second is to rationalise and reconfigure primary provision.

“That allows us to look at both things together.”

Ms Evans pointed out that area reviews had taken place in both the Llanfyllin and Brecon catchment areas.

But there were several other issues in the Llanfair Caerenion catchment area that needed to be ironed out before a full review can take place there,

School closures have already happened recently there.

At the end of August 2020, Dyffryn Banw Community primary school in Llangadfan and Llanerfyl Church in Wales foundation school were both closed.

A merged school, Ysgol Cwm Banw, opened at the Llangadfan site in September 2020.

Ms Evans also pointed out the decision to go ahead and merge the high school and primary school in Llanfair Caereinion had also just been taken and will take time to implement.

Ms Evans said: “The catchment is complex in terms of the different types of schools, you have Welsh medium, English medium, dual stream and church schools, there are a number of things that need to happen in a phased way.

“Once we’ve established all through school in Llanfair Caerenion, there’s a language component to think about.

“Those things need to happen first before reviewing the whole catchment.”

“Sometimes when you carry out area reviews the outcome can take a long time to be implemented, however we are faced with a number of small schools in the county and for equity purposes we need to address those.”

The Independent/Conservative cabinet will decide Castle Caereinion’s future at their meeting on Tuesday.

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