September 28, 2008

Parents Anxious Over Schools Merger Plan

Parents have raised concerns over a proposal to merge two Gwendraeth Valley secondary schools.

A council document discusses the possibility of merging bilingual Ysgol y Gwendraeth in Drefach and Welsh-medium school Ysgol Gyfun Maes-yr-Yrfa in Cefneithin.

It is part of wider schools reorganisation proposed in Dinefwr, which could lead to the number of secondaries in the area being cut from five to three.

Carmarthenshire Council says it was premature to read too much into the proposals, but there are fears it could affect Welsh- medium education.

Ysgol y Gwendraeth governor and former chairman of governors at Ysgol Maesyryrfa, Councillor Terry Davies said: "No decision has been made. Now is the time for consultation."

The Dinefwr 11 to 19 Education Options document, which could see one learning centre based on the two school sites, was drawn up after discussions between the council and Assembly officials, local head teachers and the voluntary sector.

But Councillor Davies said it was vital that families in the area were not excluded.

He added: "At the end of the day it's the education of children in the Gwendraeth Valley that is most important.

"One of the problems is that not everyone wants their children to be educated in Welsh.

"We have two brilliant schools, not just with results but in terms of full education, I hope this doesn't create a split between the two schools."

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas and constituency MP Adam Price have also joined the debate.

The pair believe the council must learn from criticisms of the way previous decisions on the future of schools in the county have been handled.

Mr Thomas said: "A number of parents concerned about the future of these schools have contacted my office.

"The council needs to be transparent about the proposals and be open about what parents of children at the school should be prepared for.

"A merger of Ysgol Maes-yr-Yrfa and Ysgol y Gwendraeth would be very difficult, as they are two different types of schools in relation to the language status.

"The lack of clarity from the council is only fuelling parents' anxiety."

A spokeswoman for Carmarthenshire Council said there was no hidden agenda.

She said: "It has to be stressed that the paper produced as a result of our work so far is purely to initiate the debate on how we are going to provide what is required in future.

"While the working group has agreed that the status quo is not an option, no decisions have been made.

"The proposals, in the view of all those who have developed the paper, would advantage our young people but it is recognised that there remains a lot of work to be done to bring any new ways of working to fruition."

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