Lack of an after-school club at a rural primary school in Powys has seen a catastrophic drop in numbers - taking it to the brink of closure.
At a meeting of Powys County Council’s Learning and Skills scrutiny committee on Tuesday, October 17 members looked at a proposal to close Irfon Valley Primary School in Garth between Builth Wells and Llangammarch Wells.
Pupil numbers at the school have dropped to 19 this term when only last January there were 43 children there.
Education cabinet member Liberal Democrat Cllr Pete Roberts told the committee that the closure proposal had nothing to do with the wider school transformation agenda.
“But comes about as a result in the sudden decline of pupils which exposes the vulnerability of our smallest rural schools,” said Cllr Roberts.
Schools transformation manager Marianne Evans said: “It’s really important to state - the governors of the school approached us before the summer holidays concerned about what had been a recent drop in pupil numbers and the impact on their financial sustainability.
“We met with the governors and explained we would undertake a review process.”
Ms Evans stressed the recommendation to close came from council officers and that school governors “were in no way” to blame for the proposal.
Ms Evans said: “The reason appear to be concerns about a lack of after-school club and the convenience that gives parents, and that there are some very small numbers in some of the year groups.”
She added that pupils had gone to a number of other schools in Builth Wells, Llanelwedd and Newbridge-on-Wye.
Ms Evans said: “We recommend proceeding to formal consultation to close Irfon Valley school on August 31, 2024, and for pupils to transfer to their nearest alternative schools."
Cllr Bryan Davies of the Independents for Powys group represents Llanafanfawr with Garth.
Cllr Davies said: “It was a shock to the system to find out there are only 19 pupils there.
“My wife used to work there 20 years ago and there was over 100.
“It’s the after-school causing concern, nothing to do with the standard of education, teachers or anything like that.
“There is a little bit of peer pressure - when some children move others do as well.
“I will support the children, parents and staff and see how we get on in the consultation – it’s the sign of the times – there are not so many children around in rural areas as there used to be.”
Conservative group leader, Cllr Aled Davies said: “It shows the difference between towns and rural areas and the lack of services and opportunities there are for families in rural areas it’s quite stark – it’s a frustration.”
Recommendations from the committee will be added to the report on Irfon Primary School and is expected to be decided by senior councillors at a Cabinet meeting next Tuesday, October 24.