Plaid MS Sioned Williams has called on the Future Generations Commissioner to investigate the proposal by Neath Port Talbot Council to close three Swansea Valley primary schools, and to create a super school at Pontardawe.
Three schools – Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg will close if Neath Port Talbot Council decide to proceed with the plans. The proposals have recently been subject to a statutory consultation period.
The Neath-based MS has now written to Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner, claiming that the proposal will result in increased traffic and reduced air quality – both of which run contrary to the sustainable development principle which underpins the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
Sioned Williams stated:
“I have for some time had concerns around how the 21st Century Schools Programme in Wales is sometimes used to centralise education provision, which can lead to an increase in carbon footprint – particularly linked to increased home to school travel distances.
“Local authorities across Wales will often submit funding bids to Welsh Government which look to close two or more community schools, and create a larger ‘area’ school in their place.
“This is the experience in the Swansea Valley currently, where Neath Port Talbot Council are proposing to close three viable and successful community primary schools – Alltwen, Godre’rgraig and Llangiwg and create one central super school in Pontardawe.
“I believe that this increasing move towards delivering larger schools at lower average cost per pupil, works against the sustainable development principle which underpins the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
“Removing primary schools from smaller villages not only impacts negatively on community cohesion, but has a clear impact on carbon footprint. Proposals of this sort often fail to recognise national strategic objectives – for example the drive towards improving air quality, of increasing activity levels within young people and reducing travel by car.
“In the case of the proposal in the Swansea Valley, the creation of a new super school in Pontardawe will clearly result in less children walking to school, more cars traveling to an already congested area of Pontardawe and a reduction in air quality for local residents.
“The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act talks of the need to take a long-term view, of the importance of collaboration and of preventing problems from occurring or getting worse. My view is that the proposal within the Swansea Valley fails on all three of these counts.
“I have therefore written to the Future Generations Commissioner asking her to undertake an investigation into the proposal for primary education within the Swansea Valley to test whether the proposal and resulting impact in terms of traffic satisfies the principles within the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act.
“I have also asked her to investigate whether the Welsh Government’s 21stCentury Schools Programme provides sufficient focus on the principle of sustainable development, and of Welsh Government strategic goals of tackling youth inactivity, air quality and reducing car travel.”