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Education Rhondda Cynon Taf South Wales

Calls for decision to close Rhigos Primary School to be reconsidered

Rhigos Primary School (Pic: Google Maps)

SOME councillors are calling for the decision to close Rhondda Cynon Taf’s (RCT) smallest school to be considered again before it goes ahead.

The decision to close Rhigos Primary School and move pupils to Hirwaun Primary School will go before a special overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday, May 8 to consider a “call-in” proposal which urges the cabinet to reconsider the proposals.

Cabinet approved the closure at a meeting on Monday, April 29 due to the falling numbers of pupils at the school.

This was despite nearly 1,500 public objections which raised concerns about transport and travel, the impact on pupils, staff and parents and carers, finance and effective financial management, alternative options and the legitimacy of the consultation process.

The matter was previously called-in to overview and scrutiny committee in January but the committee voted not to refer it back to cabinet on that occasion.

The call-in has been signed by Plaid Cymru councillors Adam Rogers and Danny Grehan and Conservative councillor Sam Trask.

One of the reasons given for the call-in is that there is a need to further consider the negative impact of the proposal for pupils and the wider community of Rhigos, especially in line with the requirements of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 which requires the council to think about the long-term impact of decisions on communities to prevent consistent issues such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.

Other reasons given include that there is a need to fully consider aspects of the proposal which are contrary to the aims of another agreed policy change relating to home to school transport, the decision to proceed relied upon incomplete out of date data and that there is a need to consider the merits of alternative options put forward by the consultees, and alternative options to address surplus places.

The councillors who signed the call-in also said that there is a need to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of the decision both positive and negative, there is a need to further scrutinise the decision in light of the volume of objections received and transparency omitted objections should be made available to ensure open scrutiny.

If the proposal to refer the matter back for reconsideration is passed then the matter will be go back to the decision maker – council’s cabinet.

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If the call-in proposal is lost then the decision will take effect from the end of the meeting.

A cabinet report said the council has a “statutory duty through its approach to the organisation and leadership arrangements of schools to maintain the efficiency and effectiveness of provision to ensure that all schools are well placed to deliver high quality education that meets the needs of the community and makes best use of public funding”.

It said Rhigos Primary School is RCT’s smallest school and the number of pupils joining it has been in steady decline, with that trend expected to continue over the next five years.

It said: “Allowing surplus places to remain high through inaction would directly and negatively affect the future financial viability of Rhigos Primary School and impact children’s education in the future.

“Rhigos Primary School’s budget, with a diminishing income, would have less money for staff salaries, curriculum activities, equipment, running costs and maintenance of the school estate and would struggle to maintain their current good education offer.

“The proposal seeks to provide the opportunity for more pupils to benefit from the significant investment delivered via the WG’s Sustainable Communities for Learning programme in the Cynon Valley.

“Consultation outcomes suggest there is strong opposition to the proposal, however, the rationale for change highlights many potential benefits.”

The report said Estyn has confirmed the proposal is likely to, at least, maintain the standard of education provision and outcomes for pupils in the area. Its response further states the “local authority has set out a clear rationale for its proposal. It outlines strongly the many advantages of closing Rhigos Primary School, with all pupils transferring to Hirwaun Primary School.”