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New school approved, despite concerns

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County Hall: Members attend the Extraordinary meeting yesterday (Jan 13)

A NEW school will be built in the Angle peninsula despite concerns over the proposed location.

The proposal will see the closure of Angle VC, Orielton CP and Stackpole VC Schools and a new 3-11 VC school established. At Thursday’s (Jan 14) Extraordinary Meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, it was revealed that a proposed new school on a site in Hundleton was the preferred option. However, concerns were raised over Hundleton’s proximity to Monkton School which some councillors felt might lead to a drop in pupil numbers. There were also suggestions to keep the Stackpole School open because of its size and to put the new school there.

After a lengthy debate a majority voted in favour of the plans for the new school on a site in Hundleton. Cabinet Member for Education, Cllr Sue Perkins said: “There is a strong level of support for these proposals. A federation was considered but the legislations does not allow for this to happen. “It should be acknowledged that meeting all the needs of the Angle peninsula is a difficult challenge. “The new school will have 120 pupils which is hardly a large school and the proposal is the most sensible and equitable solution.”

Hundleton Cllr John Allen- Mirehouse said: “These have been three difficult years for the schools. All of the schools achieve well, there reports are excellent. One thing that has come out of the reports from the inspector is the ethos of the schools. “These are small rural friendly schools but finance has made it very difficult for Stackpole and Hundleton and the reason for that is the falling numbers of pupils. “People on the peninsula would very much like to keep the status quo but there is a universal agreement that the first choice is not an option. “The new school would be on one of two sites and the preferred site is at Hundleton. “There have been many consultations and there is a minority group that would like to retain Stackpole but that is really not an option. “The future, if an option is not taken up, looks grim for all three schools. It is a difficult choice but a majority want the new school and that will offer what the other three cannot offer of a first class facility. “We are looking at the education of a minority and this will bring educational benefits that will occur for generations to come”

Cllr Tony Wilcox said: “This is a sign of the times and everybody would welcome the new school but it is the location I have a problem with. Most of the children go to the Stackpole School. We own the site and we would only have to use the one bus to get children to and from the school. “We would have to buy land in Orielton and the location may cause problems for Monkton.” Council Leader Jamie Adams said that the council had to be mindful of the roads around Stackpole and that although Stackpole is the largest school, it was about where people travel from to attend the school.

Cllr Viv Stoddart was also concerned about the new location and added that there was no mention of the preferred site in the recommendation. Cllr Adams said that the preferred option was the Orielton site. Cllr Jacob Williams said: “I agree with the concerns. The site at Hundleton would be within two miles of Monkton and I don’t think that is ideal. The Monkton School is too close to this site. “The site at Stackpole is bigger, it has playing fields and is in Pembrokeshire County Council Ownership. The case has not been made that the site needs to be at Hundleton. Why spend extra money on new land at Hundleton?”

Cllr Daphne Bush said: “Travelling from Angle to Hundleton is far better and you cant expect Angle children to travel to Stackpole and Hundleton is a super alternative. Cllr Mike John said it would not be fair to expect children from Angle to travel to the Stackpole School and added that the new school needed to be in a central location. Cllr Tessa Hodgson said she was unhappy with the recommendation as she felt it should include the possibility of looking at the Stackpole site as an alternative. The plans were approved by a majority vote.