Why not a two-site secondary school in north east Carmarthenshire?

Email sent today to Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM and Jonathan Edwards MP, suggesting a two-site secondary school for north east Carmarthenshire, a region which the county council apparently deems of little importance. The council wants to replace both Pantycelyn school, Llandovery, and Tregib school, Ffairfach, Llandeilo, with a new ‘super school’ on another site at Ffairfach.

The Carmarthen Journal, March 14th 2012, has a story on p.3 headlined: ‘Protesters lose school legal battle’, i.e. have been refused a judicial review into the processes followed by Carmarthenshire County Council as it sought to close Llandovery’s secondary school, Ysgol Gyfun Pantycelyn.

The story quotes council chief executive Mark James as saying: “It’s cost us money so far but we will be pursuing costs. I’m fairly hopeful that we are going to get the costs. If it goes further it could potentially get very expensive and we would be pursuing our costs.”

Councillor Clive Scourfield told the paper: “People have the right to appeal, but I would have thought the people in the north east of the county would have some common sense. Having seen what the judges have said, I would have thought they would have withdrawn it by now.”

These comments highlight several issues:

The council is using the threat of a legal claim for costs to dissuade the residents of north east Carmarthenshire from continuing to campaign against the school closure.

The ‘consultation’ about reorganisation was merely to show that a consultation process had taken place. The council took no notice of residents’ views, and regards the majority anti-closure opinion as devoid of common sense.

If Pantycelyn closes, there will be no state secondary school between Builth Wells and Ffairfach on the southern side of Llandeilo, a distance exceeding 37 miles. Think of the marathon bus journeys that children from 11 years old would have to endure, the schooldays lost during periods of bad weather, the rising costs of transport (Peak Oil has already happened), the problems faced by parents without private transport when they are asked to collect a child, or to visit the school. There is also the issue of emissions from all the extra transport.

I can see that teachers and other staff have more opportunity for career progression in large schools than in small ones,  and to achieve this could we not have a two-site campus, one school with sites in Ffairfach and Llandovery? Considerable funds have been spent on Pantycelyn in recent years, money that would be wasted if the school closed. Education is not about buildings, but about engagement in learning, and that is boosted when there is collaboration between school, family and community. Damage the community, and that pillar collapses.

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