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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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Ceredigion dog breeder fined for failing to comply with dog breeding licence

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A CROWN COURT has upheld a conviction that the dogs under the care of Mr. Jones were kept in overcrowded conditions in contravention of the minimum space standards required by the license conditions.

Other convictions were overturned.

On 27 November 2020, and 22December 2020, the Crown Court heard an appeal by Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones, of Dorwan Kennels, Penrheol, Talsarn, relating to convictions for failing to comply with dog breeding licence conditions. 

Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones had previously been convicted at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court of running a licenced dog breeding establishment far in access of the number allowed on his licence and that the dogs in his care were kept in overcrowded conditions.

The Court heard evidence that Mr Dorian Wyn Jones had been granted a licence for 33 dogs. However, during a visit undertaken by Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Officers on the 07 August 2019, they found 91 dogs at the premises excluding puppies, in breach of his license. The dogs were kept in pens of a size that were inadequate for the number of dogs kept within them.

On 9 February 2021, Dorian Jones was fined £1000 for the overcrowding offence, and ordered to pay legal costs amounting to £2500. 

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Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, dies aged 99

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The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s ‘strength and stay’ for 73 years, has died aged 99.

Prince Philip’s health had been slowly deteriorating for some time. He announced he was stepping down from royal engagements in May 2017, joking that he could no longer stand up. He made a final official public appearance later that year during a Royal Marines parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Since then, he was rarely seen in public, spending most of his time on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, though moving to be with her at Windsor Castle during the lockdown periods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and where the couple quietly celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November 2020. He also celebrated his 99th birthday in lockdown at Windsor Castle.

The duke spent four nights at King Edward VII hospital in London before Christmas 2019 for observation and treatment in relation to a “pre-existing condition”.

Despite having hip surgery in April 2018, he attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a month later and was seen sitting beside the Queen at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in June. He and the Queen missed Prince Louis of Cambridge’s christening in July 2018, but he was seen attending Crathie Kirk near Balmoral in August, and driving his Land Rover in the surrounding Scottish countryside in September.

It is expected that flags on landmark buildings in Britain will be lowered to half-mast as a period of mourning is announced.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has expressed his sadness on the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and offered condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family on behalf of the Welsh Government.

He said: “It is with sadness that we mourn the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout his long and distinguished life, he served the crown with selfless devotion and generosity of spirit.

We offer our sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, his children and their families on this sad occasion.

He will be missed by the many organisations that he supported as Patron or President over many decades of service”.Andrew RT Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, has led tributes to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose death was announced today.

In light of the sad news from Buckingham Palace, campaigning has been paused with immediate effect.

Mr Davies said: “This is a very sad day for the United Kingdom.
“The Duke of Edinburgh led a remarkable life, excelled himself with his career in the Royal Navy, was the strength and stay to Her Majesty The Queen, and has left a legacy to the nation through the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“Dutiful, devoted, and diligent, his like will never be seen again, and Welsh Conservatives offer their deepest condolences to The Queen, and the rest of the Royal Family.”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru said: “On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I send my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family. Many young people in Wales will have benefited from the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, a reflection of many decades of his public service. Thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time.”

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Elin Jones calls for a plan to revive Aberystwyth town centre

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AS NON-ESSENTIAL retail re-opens on April 12, many of larger shops in Aberystwyth town centre will not be re-opening, with head offices scaling back on their presence on high streets across the UK.

In Aberystwyth, their absence will be particularly obvious with many of these retailers being located along Great Darkgate Street. Multiple retailers such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Clinton Cards, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, M&Co and Lloyds Pharmacy will not be reopening leaving a large proportion of empty properties.

These closures are in stark contrast to many independent retailers on Aberystwyth’s other streets looking to expand or start.

Commenting on this issue, Elin Jones said: “It’s time for a major rethink for Aberystwyth’s Great Darkgate Street.

“The multiple larger retailers are turning their back on our town centre and now we need to re-focus these large premises in order to make them more attractive and accessible to independent, local businesses. There have been smaller independent shops opening along other streets in Aberystwyth and throughout Ceredigion, so there is definitely businesses who could be persuaded to have a presence on the high street.

‘It would be great to see a partnership effort in the town to persuade the absentee landlords to give rent-free start up opportunities, to re-purpose the larger premises to suit smaller businesses and to ensure the buildings look attractive on the street.

‘Welsh Government has confirmed that no rates will need to be paid for this whole financial year and therefore now is a great opportunity to support small local businesses to reclaim their place on Great Darkgate Street.

‘It is the town’s largest street and needs to be a star attraction in Ceredigion.’

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