Mid Wales

Powys school plan should 'worry' parents and pupils

School children (generic)
Image caption Schools are facing falling pupil numbers, says Powys council

Radical plans to shake up high school education in Powys should worry every parent, pupil and teacher, claims the National Union of Teachers (NUT).

Powys council has drawn up options to cope with falling pupil numbers and financial deficits, which include the possibility of closures.

The NUT said pupils numbers were in a "state of flux" and shutting schools on that basis was short sighted.

But the council said schools were in danger of becoming "unsustainable".

More details about the future of high schools in Powys emerged last Friday in a new council document.

Seven models, including options for "all-through" schools - where pupils remain throughout their education - possible closures and the scrapping of sixth forms, have been unveiled.

A shortlist of preferred options is expected to be revealed in September following a consultation process.

Four options from an preliminary council report were leaked to the media in January. It provoked objections from parents, pupils and communities.

The NUT said Powys council's school modernisation document should worry every parent, teacher and student in the county.

It added: "Proposals to close secondary schools and abolish school sixth forms are still on the table despite the outcry over the infamous leaked document of last January.

"The Welsh Assembly Government wants to increase curriculum choice while cutting funding. This is impossible and Powys County Council should be telling the assembly government so firmly.

"The assembly government wants so-called 'surplus places' taken out of the system. The school population in Powys is in a state of flux like school populations everywhere. It is higher now than it was at the beginning of the 90s and it will be higher still by the end of the next 10 years."

Mary Compton, joint divisional secretary of NUT Powys said "to close schools on that basis is as short sighted as Beeching's closure of rural railway stations".

The NUT said it would fight any closures of secondary schools or sixth forms "vigorously" and would resist any attempt to make teachers compulsorily redundant.

'Budget deficits'

Councillor David Jones, who is responsible for schools, said: "Secondary schools in Powys are facing their greatest ever challenge.

"Our schools have delivered high quality services for generations, but it becoming clear that they are facing serious financial decline and are in danger of becoming unsustainable.

"Pupil numbers have been falling for the past five years and are predicted to continue that trend to 2015.

"As a result 15% of secondary school places are surplus at a cost of £1m per annum and that percentage will increase to 25% by 2015 doubling the annual cost."

He added that a number of schools were already experiencing "severe budget deficits".

The assembly government said spending on education had never been higher having increased by 71% since 1999-2000.

A spokesman added: "Proposals relating to Powys' schools are a matter for the local authority.

"However we expect all local authorities to ensure that resources provided for education are used as efficiently and effectively as possible.

"If local authorities believe it is necessary to reorganise schools in order to achieve that aim, it is essential that they bring forward appropriate proposals for change."

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