CYMDEITHAS YR IAITH CYMRAEG has welcomed a decision by Ceredigion Community Council’s Learning Communities Scrutiny Committee postponed making a recommendation on the future of four Aeron Valley Schools.
Ysgolion yn Dihewyd, Cilcennin, Ciliau Parc, ac Felinfach are all threatened with closure under one option of a planned reorganisation of schools.
Tony Schiavone of Cymdeithas’ education group said:
“We are glad that the committee did not rush to a decision without talking with the very people that any decision would affect. There was considerable disagreement among committee members and deciding on the future of schools is not something to be taken lightly.
“We encourage everyone in the relevant communities to voice their opinions and offer additional ideas: they know their area best.”
Cymdeithas also said that the figures in their report do not support the Council’s case.
Toni Schiavone added: “Instead of threatening four schools we hope that the Cabinet will listen to local opinion instead of following the same predictable negative route again.
“We would like to see an Aeron Valley Federation to combine the Secondary School with the primary schools in the town and the four rural schools in the valley.
“The site in Felinfach could be developed and become a cultural centre for all schools in Ceredigion, counteracting recent trends to make the curriculum more restricted.”
Although the Council said they are reviewing the situation of schools in the Aberaeron catchment area as part of a continuous review, there are only three years since the discussion on the future of Trefilan and Dihewyd schools, the two smallest schools in the Aeron Valley.
Both communities fought for their future, and in one last ditch attempt, Trefilan parents decided to send their children to Dihewyd, travelling past two other schools, so that all the children would be in the same school and save that school.
To all intents and purposes the community decided that it had to sacrifice the school. On that basis, Dihewyd School remained open.
Only three years earlier Mydroilyn School was closed, with the children going to Dihewyd.
Cymdeithas have expressed considerable concern that the criteria used to assess schools are far too limited and do not take adequate account of schools and school buildings as valuable community assets in rural areas.
SCHOOLS SEEN AS FINANCIAL ASSETS
Toni Schiavone told The Herald: “‘Sustainability’ and ‘viability’ are always used as reasons to justify closing schools but there is no clear strategy to protect rural Welsh communities, or to use schools as assets to integrate children from families who have moved to the area.
“Schools – like houses – are seen purely as a financial assets. People in these communities are seen as opponents in the debate that officers need to get the better of, without any desire to work together in partnership.
“A report has been put together, and includes a list of options for the future of the schools, but the report does not indicate anywhere what the objective of the review is – whether it is to reduce the number of empty places or to try to save money.
“The figures in their own report do not support their case in this instance regardless of their aim:
• According to the Council’s own estimates, the numbers of children will rise over the coming years, and Dihewyd School is full as it is
• The newest school, Ysgol Bro Siôn Cwilt has the highest percentage of empty places, after Cilcennin School
• Regarding the condition of school buildings, three of the four schools under threat are in the highest category but one.”
SCHOOLS ‘KEY COMMUNITY ASSETS’
Spelling out Cymdeithas’ alternative vision be retaining the integrity of village communities by retaining schools, Toni Schiavone continued: “We advocate establishing a national Key Community Asset Fund to enable communities to purchase a building (hall, shop, school, etc.). In this model, the building would be managed by a community trust and the Education Authority would rent a part of the building in order to organise a school.
“That way, the community benefits and the Council benefits from having no responsibility to spend local taxes on renovation. The project would also be open to other investment funds that are available for schools e.g. European community development funding, or Lottery funding.
“We have seen the impact of the closure of village schools across Wales, where villages and communities slowly decline – young families do not want to move somewhere where they will have to travel far to get an education for their children.
“More than 25 schools have closed in Ceredigion in recent years but there has been no case study to look at the impact on any area – it seems this is not a consideration for the Council.”
A spokesperson for Ceredigion County Council told The Herald: “The content of the review was discussed in a meeting of the Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday 9 May. The Committee felt that there wasn’t enough information contained in the area review for them to recommend a preferred option to Cabinet. They noted the need to consult with the local community before discussing the options.
“Feedback from the Overview and Scrutiny Committee will be reported to Cabinet on 17 May. The suggestions outlined in the statement in question are predicated on some factual inaccuracies. All the relevant correct facts are available for public perusal in the Council’s report.”
‘Once in a lifetime’ reorganisation planned by Health Board
THE LOCAL Health Board is embarking on a ‘once in a lifetime’ reorganisational plan which is looking at all potential options to ‘change the status quo and focus on improving health’ of locals.
This will involve, a press release has revealed, transferring more hospital services into the community where appropriate.
This is part of a strategy that the Health Board is looking into, to help solve an acute recruitment problem which is putting a great deal of pressure on the way that the Heath Board operates – and is leading to an untenable level of use of costly temporary staff to plug gaps and services.
In the summer of 2017, the Health Board embarked in an engagement with the public called ‘The Big Conversation’ which involved public workshops and drop-ins being held across the three counties of Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion.
The Health Board now says the it has independently analysed opinions of the general public and has been using that data to explore, challenge and test different scenarios.
It is yet to be seen what these changes will mean for end service users.
The Herald understands it is likely to mean hospital services being reduced or cut, and replaced with community alternatives.
The Health Board has said it will not make any changes, unless it can guarantee the safety of the people which it serves.
The Health Board has insisted that no preferred option for change has yet been determined, and nothing has been signed off or agreed at this stage.
Medical Director Dr Philip Kloer said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our health service and community to work together to design an NHS which is fit for our generation and beyond. It has been acknowledged for some time across the UK that healthcare services are challenged like never before and we need significant change. Indeed this has been recognised in the recently published ‘Parliamentary Review of Health & Social Care’ here in Wales.
“We need to develop more proactive, resilient and better resourced local community services to support and improve people’s health and wellbeing, and avoid deterioration where possible. This will involve closer working with our partners, particularly colleagues in social care. We are also looking at ways of providing the most modern clinical practice, using the latest digital, technological, and new scientific developments, in fit for purpose facilities to provide better patient outcomes and experience.
“A number of our services are fragile and dependent on significant numbers of temporary staff, which can lead to poorer quality care. For us specifically in Hywel Dda, the geography we cover is large, with many scattered communities that are getting older, needing more holistic health and social care treatment and support. Because of this, we need to better resource our community based care, which is where most of our patient contact is, and help people manage their health conditions. We also need to evolve traditional ways of working and provide a more proactive approach. This should give patients – young, older and frail and everyone in between – the services they need when the need it, so people do not have to wait too long.
“This will mean changing hospital-based care, as well as community care, and we appreciate the attachment local people and our own staff have for their local hospitals. They have been cared for in them, or work in them, and they also play an important role in our wider communities. The options may propose change to a local hospital; however this is about more than the buildings. This is about investing in our communities, attracting doctors, nurses and therapists by operating a modern healthcare system and keeping hospitals for those who really need hospital care.
“We will not put in place any change that isn’t safe for our patients and population. And we will look at all the impacts from ensuring services are safer with better patient outcomes, to considering the wider impact on people, including the most vulnerable.”
Dr Kloer added: “The potential options are evolving, with changes to them on almost a daily basis. Many will never even reach public consultation, for a variety of reasons including safety, accessibility and affordability, or will change significantly as they are tested against population needs and healthcare standards.
“We will be coming back to the public in the spring with fewer options that have been more rigorously tested and we will open and honest about what we think our preferred option is and why. We would not, and cannot, propose something that would not be safe for our population.
“We live in this community, use our NHS and work for our NHS and we want to work with our patients, staff, partners and public to ensure it is the best it can be.”
It’s About Time
THIS January, Ceredigion Museum are proud to exhibit artwork by the portrait painter Seren Morgan Jones, originally from Aberystwyth and the third generation of women artists in her family.
Jones follows in the footsteps of her grandmother Margaret Jones, whose work forms part of the Ceredigion Museum collection. The exhibition will be followed in January 2019 by a retrospective show of work by her grandmother Margaret Jones who celebrates her 100th birthday this December.
It’s About Time is an amalgamation of two distinct bodies of work created by Seren Morgan Jones; ‘History’s Eyes’ documenting Welsh women from the 19th century and ‘Portraits of Protesters’ a collection of paintings documenting Welsh suffragists at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Drawing inspiration from historical aesthetics and references, but expanding the scope of traditional portraiture, Jones redefines and re-imagines the historical narrative, and through this creating a place for women within the Welsh visual story. The paintings take on an additional layer of importance and meaning when shown in the context of Ceredigion Museum; which houses a large collection of items representing the culture and history of the county. The collection is home to many items that have been donated by women, but we too often don’t have the narrative of those women’s lives. Jones used the Ceredigion Museum collection of welsh costume as research for her paintings depicting women in welsh traditional garb; the women largely remain nameless and faceless in our displays and yet here, in Jones’ work those women’s histories are now brought to life.
The portraits are powerful and direct; the eyes gaze unswerving to create an utterly distraction-free moment between viewer and painting which seeks to challenge and question. The portraits are imagined and shaped from stories and photographs of women rather than actual bygone figures. In the creation of these false portraits, in a style that references that of the tradition of Welsh Masters; Jones places her and the women whom she is portraying within this cultural narrative.
Of her work, Jones says: “I create an alternative image of Welsh women to counter the representation often seen in tourist shops. Some would argue that this is the only ubiquitous presence of women from Wales’ past. It is important that the viewer can relate to these women and for this they must seem to have once lived.”
Join Ceredigion Museum for the official opening of the exhibition on 27 January at 2pm. The exhibition will be opened by the renowned artist William Wilkins.
The exhibition is a partnership project with TEN gallery Cardiff and will run from 20 January until 16 April 2018 at Ceredigion Museum. For more information please contact Assistant Curator Alice Briggs, firstname.lastname@example.org or 01970633086.
Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’
FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).
19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.
The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.
Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.
They are in police custody.
Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.
DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.
“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.
“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.
“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”
Ifan’s family said in a statement: “Ifan is a kind and gentle person, and we have been overwhelmed with messages of support from family, friends, as well as Ifan’s school friends, teachers, university friends, and sports teams, who are all sending their best wishes for Ifan, who is desperately ill following this incident in Aberystwyth.
“Ifan’s only choice for university was Aberystwyth, he had no interest in any other university and absolutely loves the town. He plays football and rugby for the Geltaidd Football and Rugby Clubs and is enjoying his second year studying Criminology at Aberystwyth University.”
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