Mid Wales

John Beddoes School: Tug-of-war demo outside council offices

Friends of John Beddoes School staged a tug-of-war protest outside County Hall in Llandrindod Wells
Image caption Friends of John Beddoes School staged a tug-of-war protest outside County Hall in Llandrindod Wells

A tug-of-war demonstration has been staged by opponents of the takeover of a struggling school by another comprehensive.

John Beddoes School in Presteigne could shut this year and reopen as a campus of Newtown High School, 33 miles away.

The protesters handed in a petition to Powys Council, with consultation on the plans ending on Sunday.

The campaign has been backed by motorcycle racing star and ex-pupil Chaz Davies.

But the council has pointed to poor exam results and falling pupil numbers.

Protesters fear many pupils will move to schools in England a few miles away if John Beddoes closes and reopens as a part of Newtown High.

To illustrate this, tug-of-war teams dressed as England's education minister Michael Gove and rebel prince Owain Glyndwr on Friday.

The Friends of John Beddoes School action group, which organised the demonstration, handed its petition to Myfanwy Alexander, who is responsible for education at the council.

"Our petition has attracted over 1,500 signatures on paper and online," said a Friends of John Beddoes School spokeswoman.

"This is a huge demonstration of the local concern about the future of John Beddoes School in Presteigne, and we hope it will make Powys County Council think again about the options for the school's future.

"If the school is closed or taken over it will be the end of locally-accountable secondary education in east Radnorshire. Many of our Welsh children will end up being educated in England.

"To get our point across, we will be staging a tug-of-war between English education minister Michael Gove and Welsh hero Owain Glyndŵr, as they battle it out to have our children educated on their side of the border."

World superbike racer Chaz Davies, 26, who won BBC Wales Sports Personality of the Year in 2011, said he was sad to discover his old school was facing closure.

Image caption Chaz Davies said he was sad his old school faced being taken over

"John Beddoes School gave me the opportunity to finish my high school education while pursuing my dream and I'm not sure that every school would have been as helpful and understanding," he added.

"John Beddoes school can be great again and deserves the chance to improve.

"Closing the school and making it part of Newtown school can't be the way forward, it needs people dedicated to do the job."

Consultation over the takeover plans, which would see Newtown and John Beddoes with one head teacher, started last month and ends on Sunday.

An expanded Newtown High School would operate as a spilt-site campus with children aged between 11 and 16 educated in Presteigne.

John Beddoes School was placed in special measures last December after a poor inspection report.

Powys council has said the school's exam results in recent years have been poor and it is band five ranked, while pupil numbers have dwindled from 550 to 350 in five years.

The school is named after wool merchant John Beddoes who founded it in 1565.

Last week the school action group staged a week-long bell-ringing protest.

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