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Controversial primary school merger plans in Newton pushed ahead

Despite opposition - merger process of Treowen primary school with Ysgol Calon y Dderwen is set to start (Pic: Facebook)

A PLEA not to merge primary schools in Newtown fell on deaf ears as senior Powys councillors decide to pushed ahead with the controversial plan.

At a meeting of Powys County Council ‘s Cabinet on Tuesday, May 7 a report went before the Liberal Democrat/Labour cabinet which starts the legal process of merging Treowen primary school and Ysgol Calon y Dderwen in Newtown.

Education officers recommended closing Treowen from August 31, 2025, and “extending” Ysgol Calon y Dderwen to include Treowen from September 1, 2025.

The second phase of the process would see a bigger school built at the Calon y Dderwen site during 2026/2027.

This would be subject to receiving the necessary funding from the Welsh Government.

The proposal had been consulted upon from January 15 to February 26.

The report does not state the exact number of objections raised against the proposal, but the shows a lot of concerns and criticism of the proposal and few comments in favour.

At the meeting, the council’s anti-poverty champion and Newtown East county councillor, Joy Jones spoke against the proposal.

Cllr Joy Jones 2022 (Pic: Powys County Council)

Cllr Jones said:  “This proposal goes completely against what the community wants and needs, the school is the centre of the community.

“It has given a good standard of education which has led to many young people getting a great start in life.

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“Please consider the consequences as it will have a devastating effect on the Treowen estate, parents and pupils. and the community.

“Everyone is extremely frustrated as they feel the consultation was a waste of time.

“I can honestly say apart from (council) officers and portfolio holder I haven’t heard anyone in the community support this proposal.”

“Show the public that you’re truly listening and care about their needs.”

Cllr Jones pointed out that planning permission has been given for “a huge amount of extra housing” near Treowen.

If these are built in the future there will be more need than ever for the school,” said Cllr Jones

Cabinet member for future generations, Labour’s Cllr Sandra Davies has seen at first hand school transformation in the Ystradgynlais area.

This saw several small schools closed and bigger primary schools established.

She invited Cllr Jones to visit Ystradgynlais and talk to parents of children at these schools.

Cllr Davies said: “It is traumatic and has an effect on everyone in the school community – but having gone through that process in the Ystradgynlais catchment area I can assure you that it has good results.

“All the pupils and staff are thriving, and the parents are happy.”

Cabinet member for a safer Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Church “drew attention” to the falling pupil numbers at Treowen primary.

The school is predicted to have 87 pupils by January 2027, dropping from the current 108.

In January 2016 the school had 132 pupils.

Cllr Church said: “This demonstrates the massive demographic change that is happening in Powys.

“We tend to associate declining school numbers with rural areas but it’s happening in our towns as well and you can see it very clearly in these figures.

“The figures show Treowen declining in size by nearly 50 per cent.

“We have to remodel our schools to reflect this huge demographic change happening in our county.”

Cabinet went on to unanimously agree starting the legal process of merging the schools.