Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams has reacted with disappointment that the Welsh Government has refused to undertake a public enquiry into the circumstances surrounding the closure of Godre’rgraig School.
Sioned Williams had written to the Education Minister, Jeremy Miles MS, calling for the move, following concerns raised locally into how the whole situation has been handled.
The school was moved from its original location due to an identified possible risk of movement in a spoil heap behind the school in July 2019. Since then, the school has been located on a temporary site in Pontardawe.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet has now agreed to the permanent closure of the school as part of plans to create a ‘super’ primary school in Pontardawe, which is now subject to a statutory consultation period.
Sioned Williams stated:
“I firmly believe that the circumstances surrounding the closure of Godre’graig School need to be rigorously investigated, and this is why I have called for a public enquiry.
“At the time of closure, pupils, parents, staff and governors of the school were assured the move was temporary. However, the Council has now proposed permanent closure, and given the release of the recording of comments by the former leader of Neath Port Talbot Council Cllr Rob Jones which allegedly revealed his view on the plans for school reorganisation, involving Godre’rgraig School, there is deep concern locally that reasons for the closure were not wholly disclosed.
“As a result they feel that the recent consultation into the formal closure of the school and the creation of a new super primary school in Pontardawe was not meaningful. Residents do not trust what the Labour-led Council are telling them and this is why I want to see an external, independent enquiry.”
The Plaid MS added:
“Even though the Labour-led Council has taken action to move the school on safety grounds, one of the options that it is currently considering is to demolish the school and use the site for community benefit.
“Residents locally are rightly asking, how can this option be a viable consideration? If the area is not safe enough to site a school then why is it seemed safe enough for community use?
“There are a huge number of questions locally on how Neath Port Talbot Council have handled this situation, and quite simply, people do not trust what they are being told.”
The Welsh Government state that if members of the community have concerns about the way the local authority dealt with the temporary closure of the school, they should raise these directly with the local authority and that any issues or concerns regarding the statutory proposal to permanently close the school should be raised as part of the consultation process.
Sioned Williams added:
“The Welsh Government do not seem to recognise that local people have made their views known to the local authority but feel that their views have been ignored. This is why we need an independent, external enquiry.
"It is particularly disappointing that the Welsh Government have refused to hold an enquiry into the situation given the level of public concern.”