Closure delay allows the possibility of Welsh medium education at Dolau to be explored

By Elgan Hearn   |   Local democracy reporter   |
Friday 1st July 2022 8:00 am
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Dolau Primary
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Is Llanfihangel Rhydithon primary school the right place to set up Welsh language education in East Radnorshire?

And if it became a Welsh medium school would it have enough children going there to make it viable?

These are the major questions that need to be answered before a decision to close the school is finally taken or not.

At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Wednesday, June 29, members looked at a report that proposes delaying the decision to close Llanfihangel Ithon (also known as Dolau) primary school

The closure of the school, agreed by the previous Independent/Conservative administration had been set for August 31, 2022.

The delay means that the new closure date is August 31, 2022.

Any fresh proposals, such as turning it into a Welsh medium school would see the process start from scratch.

Education officers told the committee that there are 36 pupils currently at the school – with 34 expected in September.

Despite the closure decision having been taken earlier this year, the education officers told the committee there had been no applications to move children to other schools.

Cllr Bryn Davies said: “I obviously welcome Welsh medium education provision in East Radnorshire, do you have any idea how many children are needed to create a viable school at the start?”

Cllr Iain McIntosh believed that moving towards Welsh medium education could lead to a drop in numbers from parents wanting their children educated in English.

Cllr McIntosh said: “This could make an even stronger case to close the school in 12 months’ time and is just kicking the can down the road.”

Cllr Pete Roberts
Cllr Pete Roberts (Powys )

Cabinet member for a learning Powys, Cllr Pete Roberts said: “The whole point of delay is to gain a proper assessment of the potential numbers of Welsh language pupils within the catchment and whether there is viability for a fully Welsh Medium school.”

He added that he could not provide a precise figure as this could “prejudice” a future decision.

Cllr Roberts said: “There is a desire to have Welsh Medium education at primary level in East Radnorshire – we don’t know the level of demand or the best location.”

Cllr Roberts explained that part of the decision-making process is now entwined with desire of increasing the number of Welsh speakers to 1 million by 2050.

Cllr Roberts said that if Powys is to increase the number of Welsh speakers by 2050, as is the ambition, “bold decision” need to be taken to increase the number of Welsh speakers in Powys from “very small numbers.”

Cllr Roberts said: “If we don’t go down this route we are essentially saying the only place we are going to open Welsh medium schools is where there are Welsh speakers at the moment, and we won’t achieve our targets.

“By establishing a Cylch and Ti a Fi group (nursery provision), that commitment from the community suggests that there is potential on this site that may not be present in other parts of East Radnorshire.

“If we don’t make attempts to grow the Welsh language – we will be stagnant.”

He added that census figures on Welsh speakers will be published this autumn and will be key data to analyse on whether a decision to change the school will be considered.

Comments from the committee will be added to the report which will go to a cabinet meeting next Tuesday, July 5 for a decision.

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