Opponents of plans to shut an Anglesey primary school have failed in their latest bid to block a £6m reorganisation of education in the Llangefni area.
Meeting on Thursday, the council’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee voted to recommend the closure of Ysgol Talwrn and to build an extention at Ysgol y Graig which will increase the capacity of the 2009-built school to 480.
The recommendation, which will now go to the Executive for a final decision next week, would see the 38-pupil school close after the new block at the Llangefni primary is completed by the summer of 2023.
Despite the resounding vote, however, many councillors said they were “torn” with one local member seeking assurances that even a new block at Ysgol y Graig and a mooted replacement for Ysgol Corn Hir – the town’s other primary – would be enough to satisfy the growing demand for school places in Llangefni.
With the council report highlighting that only a third of Talwrn pupils actually lived within the catchment area, Cllr Nicola Roberts blamed this on a historic lack of spaces within Llangefni’s schools but that many parents were now choosing the rural school due to it being smaller.
Adding there was a “strong feeling” locally that the plans were being “pushed through the back door,” she asked officers why could Talwrn not stay open in the same way that plans to close Ysgol Bodffordd were recently dropped, while still planning to open a new school to replace Ysgol Corn Hir.
Fellow ward member, Cllr Bob Parry, said he was “shocked” by how few of the 38 current pupils lived in Talwrn, referring to examples in Llanfachraeth where parents had initially opposed a new out-of-village school but had changed their minds after seeing the facilities on offer at Ysgol Rhyd y Llan in Llanfaethlu.
Cllr Dylan Rees – who joined his ward colleagues in voting to recommend closure – was critical of the report which stated that the loss of the school would be of “neutral” impact on the community, but decided to vote with his “head rather than heart.”
Speaking on behalf of Ysgol Talwrn parents, however, Robat Idris Davies described the timing of the process during a pandemic as “unfair,” with the stress on the community having already resulted in families moving their children to other schools and a resulting drop in pupil numbers.
“Despite the consultation showing there is no support for this, they are pressing ahead anyway,” he said, stressing that Ysgol y Graig could be expanded without shutting Talwrn.
“Its no wonder that the people of Talwrn feel that the council isn’t listening to them. The arguments used to close Talwrn could be used for any school in the country.”
Mr Davies concluded that Coronavirus had “strengthened the arguments for more and smaller schools rather than bigger establishments.”
But despite this, a proposal by Cllr Bryan Owen for Ysgol Talwrn to be spared the axe and to instead be federalised did not persuade committee members.
This was after the head of education, Rhys Howard Hughes, stated his view that it would not be preferable due to the size discrepency between Talwrn and the Llangefni primaries as well as the demands already placed on both town schools’ headteachers.
Members voted by eight to two to recommend that Ysgol Talwrn be closed once the £6m expansion of Ysgol y Graig has been completed, with the Welsh Government set to fund 65% of the total cost as part of its 21st Century Schools Programme.
A final decision is expected by the council’s Executive on December 17.