Delay closing Llanfihangel Rhydithon school committee advise

A DECISION to close a primary school in Radnorshire should be delayed allowing for more information to be given to cabinet, a committee will advise.

Llanfihangel Rhydithon primary school in Dolau,
Llanfihangel Rhydithon primary school in Dolau,

Powys County Council’s cabinet will discuss and possibly decide the future of Llanfihangel Rhydithon primary school in Dolau, near Llandrindod Wells on Tuesday, September 28.

The Learning and Skills scrutiny committee wrestled with the closure proposal for over two and half hours on Wednesday, September 22 when they looked at a report on the consultation outcome.

Members of the committee believe there are still unanswered questions which could leave the authority vulnerable to a legal challenge – if they decide to go ahead with the closure.

The consultation which ran from mid-April to June saw 290 people respond online as well as 130 written responses.

No figures were given on how many people were for or against the closure.

In the report, comments against the closure had been rebutted point by point by education officers.

Committee chairman Councillor Pete Roberts said that the committee had been convinced on most of the arguments in favour of closure, but believed that more exploring of changing the school to a dual or Welsh medium is needed.

Cllr Roberts added that “federating” or bringing Llanfihangel Rhydithon under the wing of nearby school to work in tandem and share management, also needs further investigation.

Cllr Roberts said: “I would encourage officers to examine the possibility of deferring the decision with cabinet if they need to gather that information together.

“At this stage as a committee, we can neither say that the criteria of the (Welsh Government) rural schools policy has been met or they have failed, it’s on too much of a knife-edge to categorically say one way or the other.”

Councillor Jake Berriman said: “There’s room for doubt, I wish to safeguard Powys from legal action, this would be best for the school and cabinet.

“I’m not wanting to provide false hope, this is about getting the right solution and I want the conversations to be had, I want all cards on the table.”

Closing Llanfihangel Rhydithon would save the authority £59,000 a year.

The school has 36 pupils, and the council believes closing the school would reduce the surplus spaces in nearby primary schools.

In 2020/21 each pupil at the school costs £6,306 which compares with the Powys average of £4,264.

If approved by cabinet – the next stage in the process would see a legal period for official objections start.

At a future date a report on any objections would be looked at by cabinet and a final decision made.

If that is agreed it is expected that the school would close on August 31, 2022, with pupils expected to attend their nearest alternative school.

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