PROTESTORS gathered outside County Hall on Wednesday (Mar 9), as the future of Ysgol Bancffosfelen was discussed by the Education and Children Scrutiny Committee.
Carmarthenshire County Council announced that it was looking to launch a statutory consultation into closing the school in 2017, and transferring the remaining pupils to Ysgol Pontyberem.
However, the committee unanimously voted in favour of a motion saying that they would be unable to offer any recommendations without visiting schools in the area, receiving more information from the authority, and studying plans from the governors to take over the running of the school through a Community Charitable Trust.
A report read at the meeting said that the Authority had ‘a legal responsibility’ to review both the type and number of schools under its control, and ‘whether or not it is making the best use of resources and facilities to deliver the opportunities that children deserve.’
The report claimed that Ysgol Bancffosfelyn had seen a ‘steady decline in pupil numbers’ over recent years – from 48 in January 2011 to 35 in January 2016 – which led to 64% of the school’s capacity being unused.
For context, the report pointed out that the Welsh Government defines a surplus of greater than 25% as ‘significant,’ and advises reviewing schools with more than 10% surplus capacity.
It was also suggested that the lack of a permanent Headteacher, when combined with the surplus capacity, presented ‘a school model which does not represent a sound, stable educational model or best use of resources.’
‘In addition, the Authority feels that from an educational perspective having such a small number of pupils makes it extremely difficult for the school to deliver the breadth and depth of curricular and social experiences which pupils of this age require to fully develop.’
The draft consultation document suggested that pupil travel costs would not be much of an issue because ‘many of the pupils attending Bancffosfelen reside within the catchment of Pontyberem.’
Both schools gained similar ratings in the National Schools Categorisation system.
The cost per pupil to the council is £4,547 at Bancffosfelen – 24% above the county average, while at Pontyberem, the cost per pupil is £3,583.
The author of the report, Simon Davies, said that 23 letters of objection to the school’s closure had been received by the council, in addition to a statement by Bancffosfelen governors and a petition signed by ‘a number of people.’
Councillor Gwyn Hopkins proposed that the committee should visit the school, and receive ‘far more details’ about the plan put forward by the Governors to for a Community Charitable Trust.
“We need more details, but it seems at the moment to be at least a possibility,” Cllr Hopkins added.
Cllr Hopkins also suggested visiting Ysgol Pontyberem.
Committee Chair Councillor Eirwyn Williams agreed that the Governors’ plan ‘at face value seems exciting and plausible.’
Councillor Mansel Charles – who admitted earlier in the meeting that he was a supporter of smaller schools – agreed. Cllr Charles also said that while it was good to see that a number of letters of support had been written, it was ‘disappointing’ that they had been received so late, meaning that committee members had been unable to read them in any detail. Cllr Charles also suggested visiting other nearby schools including Ysgol y Fro, and assessing where Bancffosfelen pupils lived in relation to the catchment areas.
Councillor Cefin Campbell said that it was encouraging to see that the Governors and friends of the school had ‘set about things in a different way,’ in looking to form a Community Charitable Trust.
“As a council, when schools go below certain numbers, we deal with it in the same way. This way breaks new ground,” he added, before emphasising that the business plan put forward would be viable in terms of building improvements, educational strategy, and pupil safety.
However, Councillor Hugh Richards suggested that as a large percentage of the pupils lived in the Pontyberem catchment area, the figures put forward relating to school use were ‘undermined’.
The committee’s decision was welcomed by Cymdeithas.
Ffred Ffransis said: “We hope the Council will instruct officers now not to just sit on their hands but to actively work with communities to establish how best to develop schools. Communities change and sometimes schools choose to close or have to close but this should be the last resort not the default position. Let this be the start of a new spirit of co-operation in the revival for Welsh speaking communities.
Police appeal after river death in Ystradgynlais
DYFED-POWYS POLICE is appealing for witnesses following the death of a man in Ystradgynlais.
At around 10am this morning (16 January 2020), a man aged in his 60s was seen entering the River Tawe near Gorsedd Park.
He was rescued from the water near Trebanos Rugby Club, but despite the best efforts of paramedics, was sadly pronounced dead at the scene. His next of kin and HM Coroner have been informed.
His death is not being treated as suspicious, or linked to the adverse weather.
Our thanks go out to all who assisted in the response to this tragic incident, in very difficult weather conditions.
Anyone with information is urged to contact police in Ystradgynlais online by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Use reference: DP-20200216-217
New Body Cameras for Transport for Wales Staff
Last year alone, saw over 350 reported accounts of physical or verbal abuse against staff on trains in Wales and whilst this is a small number in terms of the overall passenger journeys, TfW are keen to further reduce this number as any incident should not be tolerated.
Antisocial figures in Wales show an improving trend in comparison with the rest of the UK and TfW has previously committed to providing CCTV at every station across the Wales and Borders network and already introduced additional security staff.
This trial is another step forward in reducing this type of behaviour and is being delivered in partnership with the British Transport Police.
The trial will include four different type of cameras, and after a review period, one company will be selected to supplying 300 across the network.
Ken Skates, Welsh Government Transport and North Wales Minister, said:
“Everyone has the right to work or travel on our network without the fear of abuse or threats. The rail staff there to help us are no different to our family and friends. They are working hard to get us from A to B, often in difficult circumstances.
“We must stamp out anti-social behaviour and do everything we can to support staff to do their jobs and let passengers make their journeys in a safe and pleasant environment.”
Daniel Hopkin, a frequent rail passenger on the Neath to Cardiff line added:
“It’s great that Transport for Wales are fitting their staff with cameras. I regularly travel between Neath and Cardiff on the train and I think that any improvements in safety will benefit customers.
“The railway station can be really hectic and the fact that staff will have body cameras should act as a deterrent to some of the occasional bad behaviour. Transport for Wales seem to be considering different ways to improve things for the customer and I find that encouraging as a passenger.”
Marc Clancy, Transport for Wales Conductor said:
“We have to deal with a range of people daily and most of our customers are grateful and polite. We work extremely hard to give our customers the best possible experience when using our services, however at times staff and passengers do experience occasional antisocial behaviour and abuse.
“The introduction of these cameras should act as a deterrent to antisocial behaviour, support assault prosecutions and boost public confidence in safety.
“They will provide our front-line staff with more confidence when dealing with difficult situations and abusive customers.”
BTP Superintendent Andrew Morgan, said:
“The safety of passengers and our rail industry colleagues is our absolute priority and we do everything we can to protect them.
“We fully support the introduction of body worn cameras for Transport for Wales’ frontline staff – we know from experience that body worn video is a fantastic piece of kit that helps us in securing convictions against those who target staff with unnecessary violence or abuse.
“We hope the introduction will deter anti-social behaviour and provide reassurance to rail staff as well as passengers.
Fortunately, these types of incidents are few and far between, however if anyone has any concerns while travelling, they can text us on 61016.”
Police appeal following fatal road traffic collision
“Dyfed-Powys Police is appealing for witnesses to a single vehicle road traffic collision which occurred on an unclassified road eastbound between Afon Dulais and Pantygwyn, Capel Dewi around 3pm on Saturday 8th February 2020.
Sadly the 50-year-old female driver passed away at the scene.
The vehicle involved was a 64 plate Grey Nissan NV200 Acenta.
If anyone has any information on this incident please contact Carmarthenshire serious collision investigation unit on the 101 number quoting reference 185 for the 08th February
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