At the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, November 23, Powys county councillor for Montgomery Stephen Hayes “expressed his satisfaction” that education department staff had recommended that Churchstoke primary school “shouldn’t be closed.”
Back in February, the Independent/Conservative cabinet backed starting the process to close the school at the end of August 2022.
A consultation was held on the proposal earlier this year, where 347 people responded to the online form and a further 163 written responses were received on the proposal.
Education portfolio holder, Councillor Phyl Davies told the committee that “complex issues” had been thrown up by the consultation which had seen the recommendation changes.
Councillor Hayes said: “Up to 80 children from the area travel to Shropshire schools.
“This is not an issue just affecting Churchstoke and its catchment.
“Primary schools all along the long border from Ysgol Bro Cynllaith (Llansilin) to Hay (on-Wye) have been unable to impress on the authority that they exist in a distinct and competitive market.
“We don’t understand how parents in these border areas make decisions on their children’s education, what influences them, when the key decision is made?”
He believed that understanding what Shropshire and Herefordshire schools were doing to “successfully incentivise” parents to choose an English school and why Powys was not “countering that” needed to be investigated.
Councillor Hayes said: “There are between 16 to 18 schools, some 20 per cent of our primary schools located within three miles of the English border.
“We can’t sit by while children resident in Powys are being educated in England without at least taking steps to understand the problem and make it easier for parents to opt for a Powys education.”
Councillor Hayes added that following research into the problems: “at least we will be making decisions from an informed position.”
He suggested that it would now be a “mistake” to consider the future of any primary school “within five miles of the border” until that work is done.
Council leader, Councillor Rosemarie Harris said that the council had been aware for some time of the numbers of post-16 age pupils leaving Powys to be educated outside.
“We haven’t perhaps been as aware of the primary school children as we had as we should be,” said Councillor Harris.
Finance portfolio holder Councillor Aled Davies – who represents a ward including Ysgol Bro Cynllaith in Llansilin – one of the border schools mentioned which is also under threat of closure.
Councillor Davies said: “Our transformation programme is about the making the offer in our schools so compelling that pupils will want to stay in Powys.”
Councillor Phyl Davies said: “We do need to do more to learn why this outward migration is happening before we bring any more proposals in these areas and what effect they would have.”
He added that he would “urge” education officers to start work investigating this as soon as possible.
The cabinet voted unanimously to drop the Churchstoke closure proposal.