west*wales*news*review

West Wales News Review — analysis with a sustainability slant

200 Square Miles Without State Secondary Education?

Why closing Ysgol Gyfun Pantycelyn, Llandovery, is not the best option for future prosperity

The catchment area of the doomed Ysgol Gyfun Pantycelyn – the wards of Llandovery, Cilycwm, Llangadog and the eastern half of Cynwyl Gaeo – contained 522 children aged 7 to 13 in 2011. These would be the secondary school population of 2015. This number excludes the new population to result from planned housing estates in Llandovery, but does include children whose parents opted to avoid Pantycelyn because of the closure rumours that began back in 2008.

To reach Carmarthenshire County Council’s proposed new school west of Ffairfach, pupils have to be transported through Llandeilo, where air pollution levels are too high and must be cut. Less road traffic, not more, is the answer.

The alternative route on the south side of the river Tywi through Bethlehem is narrow, winding, and single lane in places – not at all suitable for buses, which would present dangers to other road users.

A bypass for Llandeilo is suggested as the ‘get out of jail’ card. No money has been allocated for this, and given the heavy pressures on the Welsh Government’s budget, money may not be forthcoming. In addition, do we really want to destroy the historic landscape of the Tywi valley at Llandeilo with urban intrusions of roads and roundabouts, as well as with buildings for a 1200-pupil school?

Transporting hundreds of children twice a day from their own community, over distances of as much as 20 miles, is damaging in many ways – bus and car emissions adding to pollution, unnecessary and costly consumption of diesel and petrol, time wasted sitting on buses.

There are no state secondary schools near Llandovery to which children could easily transfer. Brecon High School and Ysgol Bro Pedr, Lampeter, are each 21 miles away. Builth Wells High School is 25 miles. Yes, there is the independent Llandovery College, but the fees are too high for the majority of local households to contemplate.

The long-term costs of closing the school are likely to be far greater than any short-term savings in cost per pupil – savings that, in any case, will evaporate as fuel costs rise. Secondary school education is a critical necessity without which towns decline. This autumn the secondary schools in Llandovery and Llandeilo have been combined into Ysgol Bro Dinefwr, which could surely continue as a TWO SITE SCHOOL? Far better than creating a zone of 200 square miles with no state secondary education at all.

Educational dead zone of 200 square miles

Educational dead zone of 200 square miles

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9 thoughts on “200 Square Miles Without State Secondary Education?

  1. Pingback: Language Locked Out by Indifference | west*wales*news*review

  2. Pingback: Hitting the Rocks: Council Forced to Cut Spending by £1 in every £5 | west*wales*news*review

  3. Why not call for the site to be a dedicated Welsh medium school, thus helping to correct some of the faults in the recent Census figures, but also prove a valuable service to a wide area of South Powys which has not one Welsh medium secondary school. It would solve many a problem.

    • This was suggested, but disregarded by Carmarthenshire County Council. I would love to see that happen, the question is how? This is one circumstance when it would be helpful to have the right to start a ‘free school’ in Wales.

      The language is disappearing fast from N.E. Carms, and will not be helped by the fact that the dominant language in the intended new school in Ffairfach will be English — whatever the council says to the contrary. Public life in Llandovery is in English. The town council reports only in English.

      In future I think transport will be more difficult and costly. I do not think the council has calculated the likely costs of twice-daily travel for hundreds of children over distances of 10-20+ miles, in fuel or emissions. There is also the issue of carriers — will there be firms willing to do the work? As the council tries to limit the costs, will vehicles be safe? Will drivers be properly checked and qualified? The impact on children themselves has not been considered. How exhausted will they become?(Travel on our deteriorating roads is more and more unpleasant, I find.) What happens if a child falls ill at school and their parent has no means of getting to the school to collect them? How do they take part in activities after bus-leaving time? I think we will see more children home educated — happening already — and also more families leaving the rural areas, resulting in the closure of those few services that remain.

  4. EmlynUwchCych on said:

    Ysgol Uwchradd Tregaron is the “neighbouring” school to the north of Rhandirmwyn: 20 miles on the narrow road around Llyn Brianne.

    Who knows how long Ceredigion will keep that school open? The Sixth Form is already slated for closure.

    RIP rural education in Wales.

  5. Christine Johns on said:

    I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed. This school has provided an excellent standard of education through the years and is a sad loss to Llandovery and the surrounding area. The area is always sadly neglected in the plans for Carmarthenshire !

    • A major problem is that once infrastructure has been destroyed, it is hugely costly to rebuild. I think of all the railways closed after the Beeching report — once the tracks have been torn up and the land under them sold, lines are horrendously difficult to reinstate.

  6. sian caiach on said:

    I agree entirely. Ysgol Pantycelyn is an excellent school. Hours spent on a bus every day with limited access to after school events [if parents not available to or can’t afford to collect children later] and transport costs in money and pollution.
    Education policy dictated by ease of getting big grants for change, not by real needs of pupils. Time to get a good dose of common sense!

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