Council Defers Controversial Decision on Future of Llangennech School
Nineteen questions about the controversial plan to discontinue English-medium education at Llangennech School, near Llanelli, were on the agenda for Carmarthenshire County Council’s Executive Board meeting on Monday.
The question were for board member Cllr Gareth Jones (Plaid Cymru, Carmarthen Town North), who has responsibility for education and children.
But Cllr Jones was absent – with the prior knowledge of other board members and officers.
Rather than opting to reschedule the questions, the Executive Board opted to ask Robert Sully, Director of Education of Education and Children’s Services, to give the answers.
The inadequacy of this arrangement soon became clear. Mrs JacquelineSeward, one of eight questioners opposed to the redesignation of Llangennech as a Welsh-medium rather than dual-language primary school, had read the council’s constitution and knew she could ask a supplementary question. Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole (Plaid Cymru, Llannon) did not expect the Director of Education to take supplementary questions. What to do?
Cue Linda Rees Jones, Head of Administration and Law. She said it was usual to put supplementary questions to the responsible elected member, not to officers.
Cllr Meryl Gravell (Independent, Trimsaran), a former Leader, rode to the rescue and proposed suspending the questions until Cllr Jones could be present. In the end the board agreed to let everyone who wanted to put their question immediately, while those who thought they would need to ask a supplementary would wait until the next meeting, when Cllr Jones should be in the chamber. In consequence, the decision on switching Llangennech to Welsh-medium also had to be postponed.
According to Mrs Seward, the plan has split the community, and this was clear from the questions. While eight opposed a Welsh-medium school, 11 focused on the advantages, as parents saw them, of a wholly Welsh school.
Mr Sully said in his answer to the first questioner, plan opponent Steve Hatto, that pupils currently in the school and being educated in English would not have to switch to Welsh, but for new entrants teaching would be in Welsh. Parents who wanted an English-language education for their children would have to take responsibility for transporting them to suitable schools.
After the meeting, Press Manager Debbie Williams explained, on behalf of the council’s Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole: “Cllr Gareth Jones had given his apologies prior to today’s meeting. Frequently, executive board members are unable to attend, however council business has to carry on as usual.
“On this occasion, Cllr Jones had prepared answers to all questions which had been submitted, and the persons asking the questions had been advised he would not be present.
“However, it became apparent during the meeting that there were a number of supplementary questions being asked that Cllr Jones would need to answer, so it was agreed that the item would be deferred to the next Executive Board meeting in order for people to have full responses from him.”