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Conwy councillors call for public consultation about merger of primary schools

PLANS to press on with the merger of two primary schools were unanimously voted through by councillors – despite a risk of more teacher redundancies. Conwy’s education and skills overview and scrutiny committee voted in favour of a public consultation to amalgamate Mochdre’s Ysgol Babanod infants and Ysgol Cystennin junior schools.

Council officers gave councillors a list of cost-cutting benefits of the proposed amalgamation scheduled for 2024. According to the report, advantages include streamlined policies and structures, continuity of the curriculum, reduced duplication of economies, greater sense of community, and enhanced professional development for staff.

The report, though, presented to councillors clearly lists “redeployment and redundancies” as a “disadvantage” of the merger. Yesterday councillors discussed compulsory redundancies to be made at Ysgol Cynfran in Llysfaen after the school asked Conwy for a £44,000 loan, admitting it could not balance its books.

Earlier this year, Conwy County Council voted to cut education budgets by 5% across schools, despite teachers being faced with the damage COVID has done to children’s education and mental health.

Conwy education officer Lowri Brown said the amalgamation was a positive move. “It is about having that continuity of education from the infants to the juniors,” she said. “I think having the same uniform, the same logo, collective worship in terms of assembly, and sports days, and just having that continuity of education under one school name is something that we’ve had (good) feedback on from the learners.” She added there had been a real change of pace in terms of the authority’s organisation of schools.

The chamber at Bodlondeb heard how the two schools have been working closely under the leadership of the same head teacher and governing body since 2017. If the proposal gets the go-ahead, the school will, though, continue to operate on two separate sites.

Parents could also face uniform costs as the school’s name, logo, and uniform will change, and this was also listed under ‘disadvantages’ in the report, but officers said the governing body would be sensitive to the cost-of-living crisis. Ysgol Babanod Mochdre currently has 44 pupils with a capacity of 81 children aged three to seven; Ysgol Cwstennin has 65 pupils aged seven to 11 with a capacity of 82.

Cabinet member for education Cllr Julie Fallon said she was pleased the plans were progressing. “I am happy that we are moving forward with this proposal to consult,” she said in the report.

“The schools have demonstrated a good working relationship over recent years, and this will help enhance the good work and further improve outcomes for the learners of the community.”

Cllr Paul Luckock said the benefits were limited as the schools remained on two separate sites but appeared eager to cut costs at schools across Conwy. “Where we can amalgamate schools on one site, it is a real benefit,” he said.

A final decision on whether the consultation goes ahead will be made by the cabinet.