Saturday, January 23, 2010

School Closures in Powys

So Lembit Opik has had a public meeting last night on the issue, and I hear Glyn is having one next week. Am I tempted to join in, and hold my own one? No, and I'll explain here why.

Now, since reading about the news on Glyn's blog last week, I've been talking to people since then and trying to find out more. Basically, these plans haven't taken the schools by surprise. In fact, they have been in discussion with the Local Authority about changes for a few years now and they will get a chance to input into the options before they go out for consultation. So there will be plenty of opportunities for teachers and parents to have their say on the matter. From what I gather, therefore, there's no need to immediately panic - there's time to think these plans through properly.

Personally, what I'm going to be doing is talking to the schools if they'll be willing to, and listening to their views and those of the teachers and parents in Montgomeryshire. Plus working with my fellow Plaid candidate in Powys - Colin Nosworthy - so we as a party have a realistic response for the whole of Powys. Yes, I could panic and organise a rushed and ill thought meeting, but why do that when schools knew this review was underway? I think it will be far more effective to let the schools and parents themselves lead on this, and be there to support them when they need it as well as attend any meetings they might organise on the issue.

I find it incredibly stupid that Lembit in particular organised an emergency meeting on the issue last night, and also to see him and Kirsty responding so rapidly against the plans. Surely, given the role of the Lib Dem Councillors in forming the proposals, they knew this was on the cards? If teachers were aware, then why hasn't he been consulting and talking to them way before this? Or does he not talk to his Lib Dem councillors and is completely out of touch with what's going on? And if he did know, then he needs to take responsibility for that rather than just reacting like this.

Of course, any proposals to close down schools are worrying and if any plans would worsen the standard of education in the county, or the availability of Welsh language provision and so on, I would be the first to join the teachers and parents on any campaign. But let's wait and see for now, and let the experts lead. Yes, you'll see some politicians try and score some points my whipping up a frenzy, but that's not going to enable proper debate which is what is needed when discussing difficult issues such as these.


Glyn Davies said...

Hello Heledd. Are you sure that schools knew about this? I've not spoken to anyone who is not stunned by this document - except in Machynlleth, where the proposals seem to me to be interesting and positive. I've also been surprised that every Councillor I've spoken to knew nothing about these proposals, and are all outraged. And everyone from the local media who read the report, also decided it was an explosive story. Have you noted the proposed timetable - which allows for no worthwhile discussion, though it will now that's it public. Having made the document public, I wanted to discuss the issue with anyone who wanted to discuss it in the areas where at least one of the options proposes closure of the high school - but the local councillor at Llanfyllin wanted to hold a public meeting (tomorrow). I was then criticised for not holding a similar meeting in Llanfair and Llanidloes, so asked my office to arrange them - Llanfair on Wed and Llanidloes a week on Wed. I don't know whether anyone will come. I'll probbaly chair these meetings, and you would be very welcome to come along. And I was pleased that our MP decided to arrange an 'emergency' meeting at Newtown last week, though I was miffed that I was away and couldn't go. This did seem a bit surprising bearing in mind that he had accused me of being sensationalist - I suppose by publishing the document! Anyway, next chance we get, we should talk about this. Its hugely important to the people we would like to represent.

Heledd Fychan said...

Thanks for your comment Glyn - much appreciated and would definitely love a chat about this. I'm not saying all teachers or all councillors knew about his, but certainly it seems that there have been discussions for years. Its just the fact that it was leaked like this and before schools were able to comment on the proposals before they went public that is creating initial panic I think. If my information has been incorrect, happy to be corrected but I still think any response to the plans has to be considered and that the discussion should be led by experts. Parents, understandibly, are extremely worries about the implications and I agree that we should push for a longer period for consultation.

What we also need to do is look at the finanial settlement Powys receives and how essential services such as education aren't scaled back to the detriment of the young people of Montgomeryshire. We need to invest in them now if Montgomeryshire's rural economy is to be develop in the future, so obviously can't take these plans lightly. But panic won't help anyone either. All options have to be considered fully and properly and should be debated sensibly. But once teachers have had a chance to do this, and if they are against them, I'll be the first to join any campaign and help in any way I can.

Bugail Aberdyfi said...

I don't think Plaid Cymru have a leg to stand on when it comes attacking us on school closures.

How school have you closed in Gwynedd?

simon said...


Please spend less effort posting about you, and more about the issues.


Please don't post a load of platitudes, lots about meetings and consultation, rather than doing something.

When I moved to Llanfyllin in 1999, the HS had some 200 pupils less than now. Since then we have had over inflation increases in council tax. We have seen the HS increase pupil numbers - so now it is 'over-subscribed'. If we remove all the Shropshire pupils PCC appear not to wish to pay transport for * we would return to the presumably successful roll we had in 1999.

In the meantime, PCC executives have made lots of money. So why have they failed to deliver a sustainable service to the residents of Llanfyllin?

And the Counsellors? If the executive has failed so badly, then shouldn't the Counsellors resign in disgrace.

And Lembit? Was he surprised at the awful state PCC school budget appears to be in? If not, why have we not heard from him before this about this matter? And he didn't know then perhaps he should be concentrating on his job - rather than headline seeking in an election year.

Failure all the way. For a pupil of Llanfyllin HS in year 8? Year 10 and 11 in Welshpool. Years 12 and 13 in Coleg Powys. Is this an improvement on the current provision?

Failure. From top to bottom.

Glyn was right about one thing. The council tax is going into beurocrats pockets. And this review of schools in Powys will merely continue the trend.