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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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Stoned Dihewyd driver reached ‘frightening’ speeds of 120mph

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A DRIVER who raced along country roads at speeds of up to 120mph has today received a suspended prison sentence and a driving ban.

Nico Royan, aged 37, admitted dangerous driving, driving with an excessive amount of cannabis in his blood, driving with a tyre without the required degree of tread and possessing a small quantity of cannabis.

Swansea Crown Court heard how shortly before midnight on April 19 Royan overtook an unmarked police car on the A487 near Llanrhystud at 100mph.

The officer began to pursue Royan, who reached 120mph on a narrow, twisting road with high hedges concealing entrances to properties.

After a mile the officer activated blue lights and Royan pulled over.

The court heard the officer could smell cannabis and Royan admitted he had been smoking the drug. Just over 5 grams of the drug were found in a bag in the front passenger footwell.

And an inspection showed the the rear offside tyre was below the legal limit for tread.

During police interviews after his arrest Royan, a sound engineer, accepted that his driving had been dangerous.

His barrister, Ian Ibrahim, said Royan now understood he had been stupid. But he knew the road well and at that time of night there was no other traffic about.

His only motive, said Mr Ibrahim, was that he was in a hurry to get home.

Royan, of The Caravan, Felinfeinog, Dihewyd, was jailed for 12 months, suspended for 18 months, and banned for three years.

He must also complete 200 hours of unpaid work for the community and £480 in costs and a surcharge.

Judge Keith Thomas said the speeds reached by Royan would have been dangerous even on a motorway and, on country roads, were positively frightening.

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£12,000 found in drugs bust to be retained by police

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POLICE have successfully obtained an order allowing them to retain £12,000 in cash seized in a drugs bust in Aberystwyth for six months whilst they investigate.

On October 19 at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court, the CPS, on behalf of Dyfed-Powys Police, said that they had reason to believe that the money they found in a raid at a residential address on St Davids Road, Aberystwyth, is recoverable property – as it was found with a substantial amount of prohibited drugs.

The money had been seized from Sadik Miah – he was not in court for the hearing.

The order was made under section 295(2) of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

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Police release new CCTV image of murder suspect

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE has released a new CCTV image of Steve Baxter, who detectives are keen to speak to in connection with the murder of Simon Clark from Pendine, Carmarthenshire.

The image was captured in Glynneath on Saturday, September 29. He is believed to have traveled to the west Wales area shortly afterwards and is believed to be in the Haverfordwest area.

Baxter, also known as Steve Tidy, Steve Rowley, Wayne Tidy or William Tidy, is aged 52, 5’5” (1.65cm) tall and has tattoos on his forearms – the name Chez and entwined circles on his left arm and a serpent on his right arm.

He is bald, but was last seen wearing a hat and wig, as shown in this image. He may have made other attempts to alter his appearance such as growing facial hair or wearing glasses.

Detective Superintendent Huw Davies said: “We’re releasing this CCTV image from the latest confirmed sighting of Steve Baxter to give people the most up to date example of how he may be dressed and how he may currently look.

“Time is passing and we really need to speak to Steve Baxter to build a more accurate picture of what happened in Pendine.

“To anyone that may know where he is, please pass this vital information to police.”

The independent charity Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information leading to Steve Baxter being found. Information would be taken by the charity anonymously.

If you see Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 999.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Steve Baxter call Dyfed-Powys Police on 101 immediately.

To pass on information anonymously, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or through the non-traceable anonymous online form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.

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