Keep 29 rural schools, council is urged
WELSH language campaigners last night called for a mass demonstration of parent power to block plans to close up to 29 rural schools in Gwynedd.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said the plans threaten the future of many Welsh-medium village schools in the county.
It is the latest set of proposals to close rural schools in Wales. Similar plans are also on the agenda in Anglesey and Carmarthenshire. Parents in more urban areas, notably in Cardiff, are also awaiting the result of proposed shake-ups in schooling.
Cymdeithas education spokesperson Ffred Ffransis yesterday suggested the plans would have to be substantially changed before they would win the support of the communities whose schools are under threat.
But the local authority said its proposals included opening eight new schools, leaving a net loss of 21. The council claims it spends £850,000 per year on 2400 empty primary school places and its plans represent the best deal for every child in the county.
Mr Ffransis said, “Cymdeithas have called on the leaders of Gwynedd County Council to listen to and respect the wishes of the people following the release of a strategy which could threaten the future of many Welsh-medium village schools in the county.
“We take the leaders of Gwynedd County Council at their word that they will listen to the voice of the people and be willing to change substantially this strategy which has been drawn up by the officers.”
Gwynedd Council’s strategic director of development Iwan Trefor Jones said the changes had been brought on by a falling birth rate and a reduction in the funding the county receives for education.
He said, “The number of children attending Gwynedd schools has been falling dramatically for 20 years, with births per year falling from around 1,400 per year during the late 1980s to fewer than 1,200 per year in 2004.
“Pupil numbers have decreased by over 9% since the formation of the present Gwynedd Council area in 1996, and a further fall of 9% is projected over the next 10 years.
“As a result, the amount of money Gwynedd receives to spend on primary education is also falling.”
The plans have caused political turmoil. On Monday Gwynedd councillor Penri Jones resigned as education spokesperson.
Cymdeithas are urging parents to protest outside County Hall, Caernarfon, next Thursday, when the authority meet to discuss the plans.