Dear Dewi Jones, Sian Gwenllian and company,
This letter has been a long time coming.
For several years now Gwynedd County Council have been reorganising and federalising small rural schools to save on the Educational budget (a grant I might add from the government which is ring-fenced specifically for use within the educational department).
We all know the chancellor is handy with government cuts. But I fear for the communities in rural Welsh-speaking areas, when recommendations are made by those who absolutely no foundation in teaching or the educational system.
Have the Educational advisors in Gwynedd County Council ever stood in front of a class of 34 children? Have to tend to the broad spectrum of educational needs in that classroom whilst taking into account government learning targets specific to each child? To be able to treat each child as an individual regardless of background?
I don't think so.
The news of the closure of my old school, Ysgol Bronyfoel did not come as a shock. They tried and failed to close the school when I was a pupil in 1988 when there were 18 of us. I add here that a majority of us have gone on to gain university degrees, excellent jobs, and have better mathematical skills than that of Cyngor Gwynedd (small school education has no benefit you see).
What did come as a shock however, was the completely farcical way the Cabinet, and members of plaid had gone about planning this reform as a public decision, when the decision had already been made to build and invest £4.5 million of tax payers money in a new school in another village.
For those of you requiring more information, the plans are here for you to chuckle at.
It seemed that Groeslon, which was not geographically in the middle was to have been decided upon for the venue of the new school by Sian Gwenllian and her cronies. When asked in the public meeting Dewi Jones the so-called head of Education for Gwynedd had no answer as to why....
Let me paint you a picture of the area. Fron is a rambling village. The population is about 200 people, but some children will have to walk 1.2 miles to the school. It's halfway up a mountain, so it snows very heavily in the winter. There isn't a pub, the church closed a few years ago, as did the post. All it has is the playground and the school. BUT, parents from other catchment areas bring their children to this school because of the standard of teaching.
Carmel is slightly bigger and more compact. Down the hill a little but the children are still rural kids.
Groeslon, you could hardly call it metropolitan but it is next to the main road to Porthmadog/ Caernarfon and incidentally the house prices there are higher because it's where people prefer to live for commuting.
Having been asked to respond to the public inquiry I took a few hours out to look at the business plan and minutes of Cabinet, Committee and Educational Scrutiny meetings which discussed the Groeslon site.
I hit problem number 1. There weren't any.
Local Councils have a responsibility of accountability and transparency. Not in Gwynedd apparently. This information should be freely available to members of the public and the press under the Freedom of information act 2002. Where is your business development plan Gwynedd?
I decided to ask, and was given the above document which didn't really answer my question. In fact reading it gave me more questions.
Accountancy- Even though recommendations have been made by Gwynedd's specialist educational officers that building a new school and organising transport worked out around £200,000 dearer than the arrangement proposed by Gwynedd. Where was your plan B? Was there a plan B? Or was it an Ysgol Parc y Bala made decision where the community had no say?
I would like to remind Gwynedd and Plaid, that the children under the ages of 5 will need staff to take them to school in loco parentis and specialist transport with belted seats and booster seats...
The cost to build a new school to house 200 children of ages 3 to 11 was £4.5 Million. Without a business building and development plan, how could this have been estimated? £600,000 was spent on Bronyfoel and Carmel Schools in the past 5 years for renewing the playgrounds and having spent £400,000 on a special educational needs classroom in Bronyfoel it was shut. Isn't this improper use of our cash?
Where will this money magically appear from? The capital budget? Borrowing, so that less can be spent on revenue in the next few years? In that case, will the sound buildings of Carmel and Bronyfoel be sold to property developers for affordable housing in communities which have no school and therefore be unable to attract young families and first time buyers?
It will almost certainly translate into a hike in Council Tax and Business rate tax. Aren't business in Caernarfon paying above odds anyway?
Communities- All three villages are predominantly Welsh speaking and rural. By taking the only heart still beating within these communities you're turning these villages into ghost towns. Taking away the rich diversity of their history as slate mining communities.
I have many more points that I would like to add here, many little discrepancies that Plaid and Gwynedd CC have omitted to their inquiry paperwork.
The point that I would like to make is, don't try to pull the wool over our eyes by thinking mountain folk will be baffled by numbers. There is no education as thorough as a small school education. I can't thank my old school enough for the grounding it gave me.
Back to the drawing board Plaid, we'll be taking this one all the way to Cardiff if we have to. Please see http://www.rhyfeddod.com if you are in any doubt.
ps. I hear theres a sale on casio calculators in The Works in Caernarfon. Just in case.