Another small Powys school will close in 2022

Powys County Council has announced that Dolau Primary School will close its doors in the summer.

By Elgan Hearn   |   Local democracy reporter   |
Tuesday 15th February 2022 7:00 am
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Dolau Primary
Dolau Primary School (Google Street View )

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Llanfihangel Rhydithon primary school which has 36 pupils, will close at the end of August, and save Powys County Council £76,000.

The fate the primary school in an area known as Dolau, which is between Llandrindod Wells and Knighton, was sealed by councillors at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, February 8.

Following a consultation, the Independent/Conservative cabinet decided last September to go ahead and close the school and was this week looking at the 200-page official objections report.

They also listened to arguments by local county councillor Hywel Lewis as well as Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr James Gibson-Watt against the closure.

Cllr Lewis pointed out that in collaboration with Llanelwedd Church in Wales primary school, Llanfihangel Rhydithon had been going from “strength to strength.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt wanted to see the cabinet “pause and reflect” on the current school reorganisation programme.

Cllr Gibson-Watt said: “The school is more or less full.

“We’re not talking about educational standards, those are very good, it’s working very successful with another school.

“So, what’s driving the idea of closing this school?

“The truth is because it’s a small school.

“That seems to me to be the overwhelming driver, all small schools would be in line for closure in due course.”

“This will have massive implications and long-term consequence for the county as a whole.”

Cllr Gibson-Watt added that the cabinet had not decided what they wanted to do to the Ysgol Calon Cymru catchment area of Llandrindod Wells and Builth Wells.

“Yet today you’re deciding to close one of its feeder schools, strategically I don’t understand how on earth it fits in,” said Cllr Gibson-Watt.

Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies said: “On surplus capacity and there not being any in Dolau, that is correct.. But not of the catchment.”

He believed that rectifying surplus school spaces across catchment areas was something Estyn had wanted.

Schools’ transformation manager, Marianne Evans said: “The option to federate with Llanelwedd came up in the consultation, it is not legally possible to federate a Church in Wales school and a community primary school.”

“We are looking at potential options for Ysgol Calon Cymru and have recently finished an informal engagement about the provision.

“Comments have been made why we haven’t included all the primary schools in a formal area review

“We have to look at where the problems are and the highest priority to address.

“That is in fact Ysgol Calon Cymru itself.”

Cllr Hywel Lewis said that Llanfihangel Rhydithon had made it “quite clear” that they were prepared to become a church school to accommodate a federation and had been in touch with the diocese of Swansea and Brecon on that point.

“The process was started but the education department stopped it,” said Cllr Lewis.”

Cabinet voted unanimously in favour of closure.This means that from September 1, pupils currently attending Llanfihangel Rhydithon C.P. School will have to attend an alternative school.

Commenting on the decision, former cabinet member Councillor Iain McIntosh said: “During the cabinet meetingI listened to Cllr Hywel Lewis, the local county councillor to Dolau School. He spoke very well and made some very good points, including the fact that education officers and the Education Cabinet member, Cllr Phyl Davies, informed the council that small schools will either struggle, or not be able, to deliver the curriculum.

“This is not true. The Welsh Government Education minister, Jeremy Miles MS, has confirmed that the new curriculum has been designed FOR small schools.

“Dolau school may be a small school, but it is doing what it is supposed to do. It is at capacity, delivering a good education for pupils in the area. The school is not running at a deficit, if has good staff, good governance and it serves the community for extra curricular activities and events too.

“During this morning’s meeting, Cllr Phyl Davies and education officers admitted the school is being closed ‘to realise a financial saving’ and that is what this is all about; saving money.

“Cllr Hywel Lewis informed cabinet this morning that, following a decision to close Dolau School, a judicial review will commence. I am sure that during that review, we will find many other reasons why, not only should this school not close, but also that the process taken to reach that decision leaves many questions that need answering.

“From a political perspective, I have to query why both Cllr Phyl Davies and Cllr Aled Davies, who are both Conservative cabinet members, support the closure of small schools? This goes against Party policy and breaches the commitment many Conservative candidates gave during the elections of 2017.

“The Welsh Conservative party does not support the closures of new schools and I can confirm that all Conservative candidates standing in Brecon & Radnorshire during the county council elections this May, will commit to keeping any school that is able to deliver the new curriculum, open.”

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