Ms Jones, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, says she is “deeply worried” about the impact the potential closure of Llanfihangel Rhydithon Community Primary School in the village Dolau could have on the local community.
Ms Jones, together with Conservative colleague James Evans, the recently appointed Member of the Senedd for the constituency, made an impassioned plea to Powys County Council’s (PCC) transforming education team on Thursday (June 3) in the wake of the consultation period on the school’s closure ending the previous day. The duo wrote a joint letter on Wednesday, in which they asked the council to revise its process to ensure that the local community can be heard.
“There is a concern at the way in which the local authority seems to be pursuing rural schools,” said Ms Jones and Mr Evans in the joint letter.
“Rarely is an issue so clearly one-sided as the opposition to the closure of Dolau school. Of the many constituents who have contacted us on this issue, not one is in favour of closure. We are deeply worried about the impact this will have on the local community. For their sake, we urge you to keep it open.
“We are concerned to hear that the closure of the school will not be discussed in full council. This prevents a local voice from speaking on the issue. Can we ask you to revise the process set out for the consultation and ensure that the local community can be heard?”
Although the village, near Llandrindod Wells, has a tiny population of barely more than 200, school supporters have certainly been making their voices heard over the last few months. The Dolau School Action Group has been established and has been hugely active in opposing plans – organising scores of events, contacting politicians and even producing a heartwarming video in which a school jumper is passed down through the generations, from former to current pupils, and even those yet to enter education, but whose parents plan to send them to the thriving village school.
“Having visited the school and met with parents and governors a number of times, we are convinced that it is a thriving, positive school,” added Ms Jones.
“Children are engaging, happy and outgoing. They told us how much they loved their school and their teachers. When asked, they would not change a thing about their school. This reflects extremely well on the teachers, parents and governors and their hard work should be celebrated and commended.”
The local authority provided funding for the school’s Cylch – a Welsh language playgroup operating on the school grounds – in 2019. That would also be forced to close were the primary school to shut, a decision Ms Jones has labelled “short-sighted”.
“Closing the school on financial grounds does not make financial sense,” she added.
“Closure would force children to primary schools in other parts of Radnorshire, increasing transport costs for the local authority beyond the limited potential savings.
“In 2019 Powys County Council provided funding for the Cylch. This is a popular facility in the area and a positive way to promote and develop Welsh language skills. It therefore seems extremely short-sighted and a poor use of taxpayer funds to close down the Cylch just two years later.”
Dolau is one of seven throughout Powys that the council is proposing to close by the end of the 2021/22 school year. The others are Castle Caereinon Church in Wales School near Llanfair Caereinion, Churchstoke County Primary School, Llanbedr Church in Wales School near Crickhowell as well as three in Brecon – Mount Street Infants, Mount Street Juniors and Cradoc School.