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Schools could shut in Aeron Valley

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CILCENNINA KEY COUNCIL committee is to consider proposals which could mean the closure of four schools in the Aeron Valley and the creation of a new school in Felinfach as their replacement.

ON MONDAY (May 9), Ceredigion County Council’s Learning Oversight and Scrutiny Committee will consider a report from Barry Rees, the Council’s director in charge of learning and partnerships relating to educational provision in the Aberaeron area.

The Aberaeron district is the second district to be reviewed under the Policy, following the review of the Aberystwyth area.

The Aberaeron district includes 10 Primary Schools of varying sizes which feed Aberaeron Comprehensive School. Some of the primary schools in the Aberaeron district border other school districts. That means that some of the pupils in the Aberaeron school family, attend Secondary schools outside the area.

The report notes that the Aberaeron district can be broken into two parts:

(a). Aeron Valley Schools to the east of the town of Aberaeron: Cilcennin, Ciliau Parc, Dihewyd and Felinfach Primary Schools and

(b). Coastal Schools / on the A487 highway to the north and South of the town of Aberaeron: Aberaeron, Llanarth, Llanon, New Quay, Talgarreg and Bro Sion Cwilt Primary Schools.

It is the schools identified in the first of those parts which appear likely to be subject of reorganisation and closures.

One of their number, Ysgol Dihewyd, only narrowly escaped closure in 2014. At the time a Council spokesperson said that the transfer of pupils from an neighbouring school in Trefilan: “would ensure that pupil numbers at Dihewyd have increased sufficiently for the school to remain above the threshold figure for the foreseeable future.”

SURPLUS PLACES

One of the key issues that will need to be considered is the Welsh Government’s policy on eliminating surplus school places.

According to Welsh Government figures from 2014, there are nearly 100,000 surplus school places across Wales. In the three years up to 2014, 123 schools in Wales closed, most of them small schools in rural areas. T h e cost of maintaining surplus places is difficult to assess.

While Estyn claims that ‘in the primary sector in Wales in 2011-2012, the average cost of a surplus place was £260’. Estyn also suggests that closing a primary school yields potential savings of £63,500 plus £260 for each surplus place removed.

However, those calculations do not take into account the cost to a community – especially a small rural one – of losing its school. In most small villages with a school, the school building is the only civic building of any size.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers in Wales has also observed that surplus places are not necessarily either spare or inappropriate.

Saying that considering schools’ future purely on the number of places: ‘would have a huge impact on rural schools where often it’s a case there are less than a dozen pupils and perhaps schools are kept open with very few pupils knowing that there will be a blip in uptake in several years’ time’.

Notwithstanding those observations and concerns expressed by Estyn about the poor quality of data on surplus school places, the Welsh Government imposed quotas on councils to reduce surplus places with funding penalties for non-compliance.

The Schools figures for the Aberaeron district seem to suggest that there is a significant number of surplus places at both Llanarth and Cilcennin schools.

Llanarth has a capacity of 84 pupils, but is projected to have only three quarters of those places filled each academic year through to 2021. At Cilcennin, a capacity of 52 student places, there is a projection that barely 40% of available spaces will be filled by 2021.

THE CHOICE

There are four possible options outlined in the report before the scrutiny committee.

Option 1: continue with the current situation of 10 schools within the Aberaeron district

Option 2: Close Cilcennin School (which has the lowest number of pupils and the highest percentage of surplus places)

Option 3: Establish a new area school in the Aeron Valley located on the Professional Education Centre campus, Felinfach (for the pupils of Ciliau Parc, Cilcennin, Dihewyd and Felinfach)

Option 4: Build a new area school on a central site within the Aeron Valley (for the pupils of Ciliau Parc, Cilcennin, Dihewyd and Felinfach)

The strengths and weaknesses of each of those proposals are summarised in the report before the scrutiny committee. While that document is careful not to rule out or rule in any of those options, it is clear that the status quo is not a recommendation likely to be advanced, while no capital provision has been made within the Council budget for option four.

From the list of advantages set out for option three, it would be hard not to conclude that it will emerge as the favoured option – a l t h o u g h there will be significant logistical issues to resolve with co-location of a school new Theatr Felinfach.

NO DECISION YET

A spokesperson for the County Council told The Herald: “No decisions on the future of educational provision in the Aberaeron area have yet been made.

“However, in accordance with Ceredigion’s School Review Policy, a review was recently carried out on provision in the Aberaeron area. The outcomes of the review will be discussed by Ceredigion’s Learning Communities Scrutiny Committee on Monday 9th May.

“The formation of an area school to replace four primary schools in the Dyffryn Aeron area is included as one of the possible outcomes of the review. Feedback from the Scrutiny Committee will be discussed by Ceredigion Cabinet on 17 May.

“Depending on the outcome of Cabinet discussions, they may ask the School Review Panel to consider one or more of the proposals of the area review. In Ceredigion, the final decision on any school closure is made by the full Council after a full consultation process.”

The details of the report and the agenda for Monday’s meeting are on the Ceredigion Council website www. ceredigion.gov.uk – following the pathway: resident, council committees and meetings, Scrutiny, Learning Communities and then select date 9.05.16.

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Aberystwyth: Driver on drugs hits lorry and causes ‘road chaos’

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A DRIVER high on drugs caused 15 miles of chaos as he approached Aberystwyth on the A44.

Brian Pitts hit an oncoming lorry and road signs as he drove on the wrong side of the road.

A car passenger filmed him because she was sure a serious accident was about to happen.

Pitts, aged 57, of Delmont Close, Tipton, west Midlands, admitted dangerous driving and driving while unfit through drugs he had taken.

Dean Pulling, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that on June 16 last year Pitts had been driving his Rover MGZR, towing a trailer full of wooden fencing posts, towards Aberystwyth from his home.

Richard Brooks followed the car through Llangurig and became so concerned he telephoned the police while his wife Victoria filmed Pitts on her mobile.

The Rover collided with a 13 tonne lorry driven by Andrew Paxton but failed to stop.

Pitts failed to take a roundabout and hit road signs and an embankment but still carried on.

During the 15 miles, said Mr Pulling, oncoming traffic had to swerve off the carriageway to avoid a collision.

Several motorists telephoned the police to report what they were witnessing, he added.

Pitts came to a stop in the middle of the road and another motorist snatched the keys out of the ignition–and noticed that Pitts had been driving with a dog on his lap.

Mr Pulling said police officers could tell there was something wrong with Pitts, but an alcohol text showed he was below the limit.

“He was clearly unfit,” said Mr Pulling, although it was still unclear what drugs he had taken.

Pitts was taken to Aberystwyth police station and then to Bronglais hospital, where he appeared to recover after treatment. But he soon deteriorated and had to be taken back to the hospital.

Pitts developed pneumonia and had to be kept in for nine days.

His barrister, Tom Scapens, said when Pitts had been shown the mobile telephone footage he felt physically sick.

Judge T Mervyn Hughes jailed Pitts for 10 months and banned him from driving for four years.

He told him, “If you had not been stopped I am quite sure you would have caused serious injury if not death.”

Pitts was told to pass an extended driving test before getting his licence back.

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Motion to support the reduction of plastic use in Ceredigion approved

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In a Full Council meeting on 22 February 2018, the Council unanimously supported a motion to reduce the use of plastic and to support plastic reduction initiatives in Ceredigion.

The motion was proposed by Councillor Mark Strong and was seconded by Councillor Gethin Davies. The motion calls on Ceredigion County Council to support the various ‘Plastic Free’ campaigns throughout the county by reducing single-use plastics within Council facilities and offices and to promote the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics at all Council supported events.

Councillor Mark Strong said, “I’m delighted that the Council unanimously supported the motion. This is an important step for the Council but we must carry on to reduce plastic use. Everyone has a responsibility to reduce the environmental damage caused by plastic. Carrying out small acts such as buying milk from your local milkman supports the local economy but in turn also supports our environment by using reusable glass bottles.”

The motion also calls on the Council to encourage local businesses, organisations, schools and communities to move away from single-use plastics and use sustainable alternatives as well as to support beach cleans and other events which aim to raise awareness of the issues of single-use plastics under the “Plastic Free”, Caru Ceredigion, Tidy Towns or any similar initiative.

The motion was amended in the meeting to include the establishment of a Members’ Task and Finish group to support measures to reduce the Council’s use of plastic and to support initiatives in the county that reduce plastic use.

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Richards-Keegan cleared of sending underage girl nude pictures

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A BOW STREET man has been cleared of charges that he sent an underage girl photographs of his penis.

Paul Robert Morgan Richards-Keegan, aged 21, had denied two allegations of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

Richards-Keegan, of Tregerddan, said the only messages he sent her via the internet were in response to approaches from her and did not include photographs of his private parts.

Catherine Richards, prosecuting, had told a jury at Swansea Crown Court that the 14-year-old girl had shared messages with Richards-Keegan via Snapchat.

At one stage police issued to him a child abduction notice, which he signed, instructing him not to contact the girl

In 2016 she told her mother that he was again sending her unwanted photographs of his penis attached to messages.

Richards-Keegan was arrested, and told police he had obeyed the order apart from messages he had sent after being contacted by the complainant.

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