Wales

Denbighshire council to consult on school closures

Denbighshire council is to launch a public consultation on proposals which could see up to four primary schools closing in the Dee Valley.

The council's cabinet voted for the consultation, which will run from 8 November until 18 February.

The council said it had to consider the possibility of "rationalising" the number of schools, because of uncertainty over funding.

Conwy council is also discussing plans to close or merge schools.

In Denbighshire, those schools potentially affected are Ysgol Betws Gwerfil Goch, Ysgol Bro Elwern, Ysgol Caer Drewyn, Ysgol Carrog, Ysgol Glyndyfrdwy, Ysgol Llandrillo and Ysgol Maes Hyfryd.

The cabinet considered two options. The first involved closing all seven schools and building two new area schools, while the second involved three or four of the smaller schools closing and merging with two larger primaries.

'Lengthy process'

Denbighshire council said: "In light of the uncertainty regarding capital funding, cabinet have decided to consult on the potential for rationalising the number of schools across the area and not to progress the option of two area schools at this stage."

The council said the consultation was the start of a "lengthy" process.

It will focus on "rationalising the number of existing schools in the area in order to address the key issues in the area including significant surplus places and head teacher recruitment and consider requests to increase bilingualism in two schools.

"The recommendation is to retain Ysgol Caer Drewyn as the largest school within the area serving Corwen; retain Ysgol Maes Hyfryd as the largest Welsh medium school within the area."

After the consultation, the council will decide whether to proceed to a formal consultation on a preferred option.

That would be followed by the publication of statutory notices and at least two months to allow any objections.

If objections are received, the matter will be decided by the Welsh Assembly Government.

Councillor Eryl Williams, cabinet lead member for lifelong learning, said: "This initial consultation will also provide an opportunity for the public to suggest alternative options that would address the issues highlighted across the area."

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg [the Welsh Language Society] has claimed all the schools are viable.

Modernisation project

Spokesman Ffred Ffransis said: "We are not talking here about weak schools on their last legs."

Meanwhile, Conwy councillors are discussing discuss the next steps in its plan to close or merge schools, potentially affecting 36 of its 61 primary schools.

Meanwhile in Conwy, its council cabinet will discuss the progress of its modernisation project.

If the cabinet supports the strategy the next step will be to research the different options outlined for each school, which will include community and language impact assessments.

The council said a programme of consultation would take place over the next three years to discuss all the options for each area in detail with communities before any formal decisions are taken.

There are 1,900 empty places in Conwy's schools.

The council says schools could be merged, both in rural areas like the Conwy Valley as well as in urban areas like Llandudno Junction.

In many cases, one site would stay open with other nearby schools effectively closing.

The council is also to look at merging a number of infant and junior schools with a single head teacher.

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