Many residents of Pontardawe, Trebanos, Godre’rgraig and Alltwen and the surrounding areas are concerned about the proposal for a new super primary school in Pontardawe at the present site of Cwmtawe School. The plans as they stand will have a major impact on Pontardawe and its surrounding communities and I believe the report and consultation on the plans issued by NPT Council have raised a number of key questions and issues that haven’t as yet been addressed.
- The consultation itself is a very unsatisfactory document. Why are options provided so restrictive, providing no opportunity to discuss the proposals in the context of each individual school? It seems that choice is either to accept the whole proposal or to reject it.
- Shouldn’t each school be dealt with separately - as the concerns and issues for each school are different? For example, pupils at Godre’r Graig school will be impacted by the fact that they will not be able to walk or cycle to school, and will not be able to access nursery provision without access to a car. This is also true of parents of nursery age pupils of Llangiwg school.
- Why is there is no option to support any other site except the proposed one at Cwmtawe? The purpose of a public consultation should be to gather opinion from those who will be affected by the change and to encourage suggestions rather than shut debate down.
- Schools are at the heart of community life. Why is the question of wider impact on the community of each school not fully addressed in the consultation? This would include the impact on local businesses.
- Why doesn’t the report reflect the impact of the plans on the local authority’s own targets and stated aims as regards to the development of Welsh medium education in the Swansea Valley, namely the effect on pupil numbers at YGG Trebannws, YGG Pontardawe and the subsequent impact on YG Ystalyfera Bro Dur?
- Why has the Covid-19 crisis not informed this report in any way? We know that staying local and keeping in smaller groups in all kinds of contexts may be crucial for the foreseeable future, even beyond perhaps the proposed opening date for the new school.
Added to these concerns are the implications of the release of the alleged recording of the Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Councillor Rob Jones which has resulted in his stepping down from his role, and an investigation, which is still ongoing, being conducted into his behaviour. The attitude shown towards those who have been voicing their opinions regarding proposed school closures in the Swansea Valley, as well as being cynical and disrespectful, appears also to display a pre-determination on the decision which the cabinet will take.
The report on the Consultaion was published on 28 May 2021. You can read it by clicking here.
It's clear from the consultation report that the overwhelming majority of respondents are opposed to the plans to shut Alltwen, Godre'rgraig and Llangiwg Schools and that there is very little support for the plans for a new super primary school in the community it is meant to serve.
I believe that it is imperative that Neath Port Talbot Council do not try to impose this plan on residents from above, a plan that has not been developed in partnership nor with the support of the community. I would urge the council to seek more appropriate answers to the questions the consultation raises, and that those solutions are purely educational in focus, with no reference for example to the development of leisure facilities.
The consultation period closed before the recording of the former council leader Rob Jones came to light. There is therefore also a need to address the major concerns regarding the role of Cllr Rob Jones in the development of these plans.
I will now be writing to the Chief Executive and Leader of NPT council raising these points and offering a detailed response to the report.
Labour politicians are in power at Council, Senedd and Westminster levels in the Neath area. I will put pressure on them to listen to the voices of our communities and continue to highlight these concerns.