CARMARTHENSHIRE Labour are calling on the Plaid Cymru-led Council to publish its plan on school closures, as Plaid make the case to save £1 million on their “school rationalisation” programme.
Carmarthenshire has the second highest number of primary schools in Wales, with around 95 schools across the county, many in small rural communities. Questions have been raised in recent months over the viability of several of the schools.
There are currently thirty five schools in Carmarthenshire with less than 100 pupils, with the majority of these schools not being 60% full. The Opposition warn that in a recent Education Scrutiny meeting it was highlighted that schools of less than 100 pupils may not be viable and is one of the reasons why school debt in Carmarthenshire has “spiralled out of control”, as one Plaid Councillor admitted.
School debt in one year has increased from around £400,000 to now around £2 million.
Currently, Carmarthenshire Council are consulting with the public on the closure of Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau schools with the proposal to move these pupils into neighbouring schools.
In addition to this, within the current budget consultation, the Plaid Cymru-led administration is looking to save over £1 million after the next Council elections in 2022 from a school “rationalisation” programme. Carmarthenshire Labour are pressing the administration to publish the content of their rationalisation programme, fearing that it could mean the closure of many rural schools.
Councillor Rob James, Carmarthenshire Labour Leader, stated “Plaid Cymru’s continuing secrecy around their school closure plan, or as they like to call it rationalisation programme, is causing significant concern for residents.
“They have already permanently closed Tremoilet Primary School and Maesybont in recent years, and they now have a consultation on going concerning the closure of Mynyddygarreg and Blaenau.
“The question residents are rightly asking is how many more schools are Plaid Cymru Councillors looking to close?
“We have seen in Pembrokeshire that there has been a move away from smaller schools to large “area schools” for rural communities. This approach would have a significant impact on those pupils that thrive in smaller classrooms, would cause the Council to fail to meet their carbon neutral strategy as high-polluting diesel buses transport children over large distances to area schools and could, worryingly, have a detrimental impact on the welsh language.
“Often schools in these areas are the heart of their community and the removal of that heart by Councillors would cause irreversible damage to our communities. Frankly, parents, pupils and teaching staff all have a right to know whether their school will be there in five years time.
“With no additional information on what school rationalisation means for rural schools, and Plaid attempting to kick this issue into the long grass until after the local elections, those connected to these schools now have to wait at least 18 months to find out whether their school will be closed. It’s simply not fair.
“Plaid Cymru Councillors refuse to rule out more school closures. Plaid need to honest with the public, publish their rationalisation plan and their plan for the provision of education over the next decade, and tell Carmarthenshire residents what schools will have their doors closed permanently in the future.”