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.
PH Balance help arrest alleged sex offender
A 51-YEAR-OLD male was arrested in Llanelli last Sunday (Sept 08) in connection to an alleged sexual offence.
Paedophile Hunting group PH Balance South Wales admitted to being involved with trapping the suspect through the use of a decoy. According to PH Balance’s recent Facebook post, the man had arranged a meeting with PH member Dobby who was acting as as a 14-year-old boy online. The man had shown up to the Llanelli town centre to allegedly take the young boy shopping.
Dyfed-Powys Police arrived swiftly on scene and placed the alleged offender in handcuffs before taking him to the station in the back of a police vehicle.
A spokesman for Dyfed-Powys Police told the Llanelli Herald: “On Sunday, September 8, we received allegations from a group in respect of a man in the Swansea area, which related to offences involving children. Officers arrested a 51-year-old man on suspicion of meeting a child following grooming, at Eastgate Llanelli, the same day.”
The spokesman added: “The man has been bailed from police custody with conditions.”
Becoming Deputy Chief Constable ‘a huge privilege’
CLAIRE PARMENTER has been announced as the new Dyfed-Powys Police Deputy Chief Constable, describing it as a ‘huge privilege’.
DCC Parmenter, who grew up in Llanelli but now lives in Carmarthen, has worked her way through the ranks since joining the force as a PC 26 years ago.
She said: “Becoming the Deputy Chief Constable within my home force is a huge privilege for me, I hope this will inspire other officers and staff to achieve whatever they want across the service.”
Her policing career began in Ammanford in 1993, having just completed a BA (HONS) degree in Education at Cardiff.
“I was thinking of a career in teaching or policing, and decided to do my degree before making the choice,” DCC Parmenter said. “Policing was always in my heart, so when it came to it, it was an easy decision.”
As well as serving in a variety of uniform roles, DCC Parmenter has undertaken a number of secondments across UK Policing and beyond.
These include a role as national field officer with the National Policing Improvement Agency, becoming operational Chief Inspector in Avon and Somerset Police, and contributing to the national implementation of neighbourhood policing, for which she received a chief constable’s commendation.
She was promoted to Superintendent in 2010 and became lead for the Joint Emergency Services Group in Wales, leading and developing a number of blue light collaboration and resilience programmes, working closely with Fire and Rescue, Welsh Ambulance Service Trust and Welsh Government.
“I’ve always tried to look at the wider landscape of policing and how we work with partners to improve services to our communities,” she said. “These secondments have given me exposure to different ways of working and has broadened my outlook.”
DCC Parmenter returned to uniformed policing in 2012 and took up the role of Superintendent of specialist operations.
She later took over as BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire and Powys, and later took up the post of Chief Superintendent Head of Uniformed Policing for the force.
She is an accredited Strategic Firearms and Gold Public order commander and has won a Stonewall National award for her support of LGBT staff.
A mother of two, DCC Parmenter’s drive and dedication has not only led her to become a chief officer, but has also had a positive influence on her teenage daughters.
DCC Parmenter said: “My youngest daughter is 14 and she’s also keen to join the police. It’s nice to know that she looks at my career positively and can see how policing can make a real difference.
“I’m very proud to be a chief officer in the force I am from. Being able to effect the delivery of services in my home area, and to serve people in the area I live ensuring the best possible service, is a huge privilege.”
Looking ahead, DCC Parmenter’s aims are to keep delivering across Dyfed-Powys Police, and to ensure the force continues to improve and innovate.
She added: “I know Dyfed-Powys communities and staff very well, and I think we have got all the ingredients to be an absolutely outstanding force. I look forward to being a part of the chief officer team to deliver that.
“I’m really grateful to our staff and colleagues across the force, who have supported me throughout my career.”
Chief Constable Mark Collins said: “Claire has shown outstanding commitment to our communities over many years and I am delighted to have her as my Deputy Chief Constable.”
MP calls for ‘fair funding’ for Wales
PLAID CYMRU Treasury Spokesperson, Jonathan Edwards MP, has called for a radical rethink of how the nations and regions of the UK are funded through the establishment of an independent Office for Fair Funding.
Writing in Wales on Sunday, Mr Edwards said he would propose legislation – in the form of a 10 Minute Rule Bill – in Westminster which would establish the new expert-led, independent body.
The organisation would have a statutory obligation to deliver geographic wealth convergence, as well as for deciding on funding settlements for the devolved nations and regions of the UK.
Recent international data has shown that the largest difference in economic prosperity in Europe was between Inner London, the UK’s richest region (with a regional GDP average of 614% of the EU average), and West Wales and the Valleys, the UK’s poorest (with a regional GDP 68% of the EU average).
Disputes between devolved government and Whitehall relating to how nations are regions were funded could also be resolved by the independent body, Mr Edwards suggested.
For example, the dispute over HS2’s consequences for Welsh funding could be examined by the Office.
The greater the spending on HS2 the greater the proportional fall in funding Wales will receive.
This is due to ‘comparability factors’ – the measure Westminster uses to decide how much spending by a Whitehall Government Department relates to issues that are devolved.
Scotland and Northern Ireland get a score of 100% on the HS2 comparability factor, whereas Wales gets a 0% score (as confirmed in the British Government’s Statement of Funding).
This leads to a counterintuitive scenario where, as the Department for Transport’s budget increases to meet the spending requirement of HS2, Scotland and Northern Ireland will receive corresponding uplifts in the money it receives.
Whereas Wales’s overall comparability factor will proportionally decrease, meaning Wales will receive a smaller slice of the overall funding.
This will also mean that as spending accelerates on HS2 during the construction of HS2 the proportional disadvantage for Wales increases.
Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards said: “For decades, British Governments – red and blue alike – have tinkered around the edges of the broken economic system without challenging its fundamental problems.
“That is why, as a first step in rebalancing things, I am proposing a new law that would establish an independent Office for Fair Funding.
“The independent, expert-led organisation would be legally bound to deliver a fairer economic balance between the nations and regions of the UK.
“London and the south-east of England continue to act as a black hole, sucking in talent and investment from the rest of the UK.
“Things have got so bad that recent data has shown that the inequality between London and Wales was the worst in Europe.
“These inequalities have disfigured the UK economy to the point where we no longer have a ‘UK economy’ in any meaningful sense.
“The Office of Fair Funding is not a silver bullet. There is little hope on the horizon of a fundamental shift away from the over-centralised British State, but it could be the first step on the much-needed journey towards a fairer, more equal economy.”
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