Thursday, 18 December 2008

More than a meeting place

“Small rural schools are much more than just meeting places to their local communities,” according to Cllr Eirwyn Williams. Cllr Williams, Plaid’s Education spokesperson on Carmarthenshire County Council, was responding to a report by a committee of the National Assembly. “They fulfil a much more important function than that, and are often right at the centre of community activity.”

In publishing the report of his committee, the Labour AM who chairs it had said that some campaigners were trying to keep schools open just so that communities had somewhere to meet, but Cllr Williams said that this was a very serious misrepresentation of the concerns of local communities and indicated that the Labour AM was out of touch with rural Wales.

However, there were some key points in the report which made a lot of sense, according to Cllr Williams. “The report makes it very clear that each school should be looked at entirely on its merits,” said Cllr Williams. “This is exactly the point that we as a Plaid group have been making in Carmarthenshire in recent months. The Labour/Independent Party coalition are following a centralising agenda driven by an overall central plan – they are neither considering nor responding to local needs and concerns, and they are certainly not considering each school on its merits.

“In the light of this latest report, the council should think again.”

Monday, 8 December 2008

Council not responding to demand for Welsh medium education

In the November meeting of Carmarthenshire County Council, Plaid councillors from the Llanelli area launched a strong attack on the county council’s Executive Board for not doing enough to meet the demand for Welsh-medium education in the Llanelli area.

Cllr Huw Lewis said, “There is a serious crisis in Welsh medium education in the Llanelli area. Children are not getting the education that their parents want for them, and are having to appeal regularly against the education department’s decisions. I know that the capacity is being increased, but it not increasing fast enough to meet the ever-growing demand.

“Looking ahead to next September, Ysgol Dewi Sant has already received 128 applications for only 60 places. The situation is becoming critical, and parents requesting Welsh-medium education for their children are just not getting fair play. It is completely wrong that parents have no difficulty at all securing a place in English-medium education, but have to fight every step of the way for Welsh-medium places. That is not what a bilingual policy should mean.”

His call for urgent action was supported by Cllr Gwyn Hopkins, who drew attention to the low proportion of children receiving Welsh-medium education in Llanelli, compared to the rest of the county. “In Llanelli area,” he said, “only some 25% of the children are receiving Welsh-medium education, compared to 60% in the rest of the county. That statistic highlights the huge discrepancy in the provision being made by the council, and underlines the need to treat Llanelli as a special case.

“The policy adopted by the council a few years ago is being overtaken by events as the demand grows much faster than expected, and that means that the plans currently being implemented by the council are a case of too little too late.

“In Llangennech alone, where there are separate English and Welsh streams we are seeing continuous growth in the Welsh stream and a continuous fall in the English stream. The council must respond to the demand more quickly than is happening at the moment, and that means, at an absolute minimum, planning for a complete new school over and above everything else which is being done.”