Plaid Cymru MS Sioned Williams has officially objected to Neath Port Talbot Council’s plans to close 3 Swansea valley schools.
The Labour Cabinet agreed on June 16th 2021 a proposal to establish a new ‘super’ English-medium primary school in Pontardawe, to replace Alltwen, Godre'rgraig and Llangiwg Prmary Schools – and to move to the next stage in the process, which is to publish a statutory notice.
The notice was published on June 17th with a 28-day window to receive objections in writing. The deadline for objections is this Wednesday, July 14th.
The Council's Cabinet will then meet again to consider the objections before deciding whether the closures will go ahead.
Sioned Williams MS, who has long campaigned against the closure of the 3 schools has now written formally in response to the statutory notice.
Sioned Williams stated:
“I have formally objected to the proposal to establish a new school in Pontardawe and close Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg schools, and there are many reasons for doing so.
“The consultation report that was presented to the Labour-run Cabinet on June 16th showed that of the 234 responses received, only 21 were in favour. It was also noted that there were 413 signatures on an online petition against the plans.
“It is therefore completely clear from the consultation report that there is very little support for the new super primary school in the community it is meant to serve.
“In addition to the overwhelming rejection of the proposals by the communities which will be affected by them, I believe the consultation in itself to be a flawed process. Firstly, the proposals were consulted upon during an extraordinary time of national emergency. Running this consultation during the Covid crisis did not allow full and open engagement with the Council on a matter of huge consequence for local residents.
“Secondly, the consultation period closed before the recording of the former council leader Rob Jones came to light. Given the comments allegedly made by Cllr Jones pronouncing his support for super schools, many residents felt that the consultation process was not meaningful. The integrity of the consultation process was therefore compromised and in the interests of transparency and good governance, the process should have been halted.”
Sioned Williams added that she also has concerns with regards to the fact that no Welsh Language assessment was provided at the time of consultation, and argues that the development will adversely impact current provision at Ysgol Gymraeg Pontardawe and Ysgol Gymraeg Trebannws as well as the growth of Welsh education in the Pontardawe area - which will in turn impact the transition of pupils to Ysgol Gymraeg Ystalyfera Bro Dur. This is in direct opposition to the stated aims of the County’s WESP and the Welsh Government’s Welsh Language strategy.
Sioned Williams added:
“I also share the concerns of local residents with regards to the impact of traffic congestion in this area of Pontardawe if this new super school is developed. The location is unsuitable as it will increase already congested traffic which will inevitably increase levels of air pollution. This is contrary to the stated aims of the new Welsh Government as regards improving air pollution and discouraging car use.
“For me, the detrimental effect of the proposals on economically deprived families is one of its most serious flaws and this aspect is not properly addressed in the consultation report. If the plans mean that if even one child misses out on nursery provision because they are not able to access the school without the use of a car, then that is one child too many. Similarly the loss of community based breakfast and after school provision will adversely impact those who need this support the most.
“Lively communities are vital to a cohesive and collaborative society. The proposals replace viable, successful and accessible schools, which are rooted in their community and contribute greatly to the life and well-being of those communities, with a structure that is unwanted and deemed inappropriate by the overwhelming majority of parents, governors, local residents and local representatives. I object to the proposals in the strongest possible terms.”