Agenda item

Agenda item


To consider a report by Councillor Eryl Williams, Lead Member for Education (copy enclosed) detailing the findings of the formal consultation on the proposal to close Ysgol Llanbedr as of 31 August 2014 and transfer existing pupils to Ysgol Borthyn, Ruthin subject to parental preference, and seeking Cabinet approval to publish a statutory notice on the proposal.


RESOLVED that Cabinet approve the publication of a statutory notice on the proposal to close Ysgol Llanbedr as of the 31 August 2014 with existing pupils transferring to Ysgol Borthyn, Ruthin subject to parental preference.


[At the request of the Leader the Head of Legal and Democratic Services (HLDS) responded to legal issues raised prior to the meeting regarding the consultation process.  The HLDS confirmed he was satisfied that relevant legislation had been complied with and there was no legal impediment to a decision being made.]


Councillor Eryl Williams presented the report detailing findings of the formal consultation on the proposal to close Ysgol Llanbedr as of 31 August 2014 and transfer existing pupils to Ysgol Borthyn, Ruthin subject to parental preference, and sought Cabinet approval to publish a statutory notice on the proposal.  A letter from The Bishop of St. Asaph opposing the closure was circulated at the meeting.


Councillor Williams acknowledged the difficult decision to be made, noting that Ysgol Llanbedr used to be a thriving school, and praising the wrap around care provided.  He highlighted that many children in Llanbedr did not attend the school and referred to previous difficulties affecting pupil numbers.  Councillor Williams explained the context of reviewing schools and highlighted previous decisions and outcomes as part of the modernisation education programme.  He also described stages of the review process which included school closure, amalgamation, federation and retaining the status quo.


The Leader referred to a recent meeting with parents and governors to discuss the issue of fair play for Llanbedr.  He was satisfied that the process had been fair and that Welsh Government would take up the matter if not.


Cabinet acknowledged the need to tackle surplus places as part of the Ruthin review and noted that 21 pupils attended the school which had capacity for 54.  It was also noted that only 7 of the 21 pupils lived in the community and there appeared to be no particular preference for an alternative school.  Members recognised concerns raised during the consultation but highlighted the importance of providing quality education and maximising the educational potential of youngsters in the Ruthin area.  Assurances were sought regarding the impact on pupils’ attainment arising from the closure and further clarification was sought in terms of school preferences and consistency of approach taken with other schools.  Councillor Eryl Williams and the officers responded as follows –


·        Ysgol Borthyn had been named as an alternative school (being English Medium and faith based) with other schools being mentioned as suitable alternatives by consultation respondents including Gellifor, Bro Famau and Rhos Street

·        only one respondent confirmed they would send their child/children to Ysgol Borthyn with most choosing not to state a preference – if it was agreed to close the school parents would be contacted again regarding preferences

·        clarified the reasoning behind earlier decisions made in relation to smaller schools and the proposals for other schools part of the Ruthin area review based on specific factors relating to those schools

·        earlier reviews based on numbers had not been successful and investment could be made in smaller schools if sustainable

·        reported upon the good standards of attainment in Ruthin schools, highlighting that the three faith based schools were all performing well

·        there were no issues over English Medium or bilingual provision in the area.


Councillor Huw Williams spoke in opposition to the closure of Ysgol Llanbedr and was disappointed that the matter had been brought before Cabinet so soon after the consultation closing date.  He highlighted strong community links with the school and church, and the support of local parents and children in community events.  In responding to earlier points Councillor Huw Williams explained that parents felt they had not been provided with enough information on alternative schools to express a preference.  He referred to previous difficulties affecting pupil numbers but projections showed an increase in to 41 in 2014 and 47 in 2015.  He also submitted that officers had under reported admission numbers and sought clarity over the reasons for closure and whether the Council had a small schools policy.  The following responses were provided –


·        an explanation was given of the process for analysing consultation responses following the closing date in time for submission to Cabinet

·        parents had been provided with information relating to Ysgol Borthyn as the named alternative school

·        admission figures were subject to change until the nursery admissions round closed – there were currently 13 nursery admissions with 4 from Llanbedr – however even at full capacity of 54 the school was not considered sustainable

·        the Council’s Modernising Education Policy Framework approved in 2009 included the review of any school with less than 80 pupils

·        the Welsh Government had set targets for reducing surplus places and capital funding to improve schools could not be accessed unless targets were met

·        there were 24% surplus places in the Ruthin area therefore the Council was not making the best use of its resources.


Councillors Joe Welch and Martyn Holland highlighted the excellent school building and facilities together with the projected increase in pupil numbers and implications of additional housing earmarked for the area as a result of the LDP.  Questions were raised over savings arising from school closure and the possibility of federation with a similar school.  Councillor Dewi Owens suggested a decision be deferred until future demand for school places was ascertained.  The following responses were provided –


·        any housing development was likely to be some years away and based on current demand was unlikely to generate more than 2 or 3 pupils for the school

·        £68k savings had been identified as a year on year saving which could be used to fund prudential borrowing; although the facilities and building were good the review focused on sustainability and future investment would be required

·        a mobile was used at Ysgol Borthyn and there was capacity for more pupils –  a capacity assessment would be undertaken in the area when considering pupil numbers for a new Ruthin school

·        federation had been considered but there would be costs associated with retaining two buildings and there was a need to reduce the asset base in order to invest in other school buildings and make the best use of resources

·        acknowledged an increase in pupil numbers during the year but even at full capacity the school would not be sustainable for the future

·        to defer the decision would put the Ruthin area review at risk and would impact negatively on pupils.


In his closing statement Councillor Huw Williams –


·        advised that if the school closed the site would revert back to the benefactor and the Council, Diocese and Llanbedr Village would not benefit

·        raised concerns that closing the school in order to reduce surplus places and attract capital funding had not been mentioned in the formal consultation document and therefore he felt the process had been improper

·        was disappointed the Governing Body had received no response to their legal papers and their Solicitor was concerned as to flaws in the consultation.


The HLDS reiterated his view that due process had been followed and a decision could be made on the information presented.  In moving the recommendation Councillor Eryl Williams highlighted Denbighshire’s strategic approach for investing in schools and providing quality education provision across the county.  Cabinet paid tribute to the energetic campaign to keep the school open but felt that the right decision was to approve the recommendation.


RESOLVED that Cabinet approve the publication of a statutory notice on the proposal to close Ysgol Llanbedr as of the 31 August 2014 with existing pupils transferring to Ysgol Borthyn, Ruthin subject to parental preference.


At this juncture (11.15 a.m.) the meeting adjourned for a refreshment break.


Supporting documents: