COUNCILLORS in Rhondda Cynon Taf are calling on decision makers to reconsider plans to close the county borough’s smallest school.
It’s in relation to cabinet’s decision in December to take the proposals to the next stage which are set to see a statutory notice published which will trigger the start of the objection period.
The proposal is to close Rhigos Primary School with pupils transferring to Hirwaun Primary School by no later than September 2024.
But there has been a campaign locally against the closure and during the consultation 226 of the 239 respondents (94.5%) said they disagreed with the move.
Councillors Danny Grehan and Adam Rogers of Plaid Cymru and Sam Trask of the Conservatives have signed the call-in.
Their reasons for calling in the decision include that there is a need to 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 RCT Council to think about the long-term impact of decisions on communities to prevent consistent issues such as poverty, health inequalities and climate change.
They also say that there is a need to fully respect the right of the child to have their voice heard, taken seriously, and acted upon, there is a need to fully consider aspects of the proposal which are contrary to the aims of another proposal which is currently being consulted on and that the decision to proceed relied upon incomplete, out of date data.
They add that there is a need to consider the merits of alternative options put forward by the consultees, and alternative options to address surplus places and that there is a need to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the potential impact of the decision both positive and negative.
They also say that the feedback from the education and inclusion scrutiny meeting held on December 14, 2023 was not included within the cabinet report nor attached as an appendix prior to the decision being made and therefore was not available for public scrutiny and response.
But the rationale for the decision given by the council is that it 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 that Rhigos Primary School is RCT’s smallest school and the number of pupils joining Rhigos Primary School has been in steady decline and pupil numbers are forecast to continue to fall in the next five years.
It said that: “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 therefore struggle to maintain their current good education offer.”
The council said that the proposal would extend and expand upon the positive outcomes delivered through the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Communities for Learning Programme, enabling more pupils to benefit from this significant investment which has included the provision of the new Hirwaun Primary School building.
The call-in will be considered by a special overview and scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday, January 11.
If the proposal to refer the matter back for reconsideration is passed then the matter will be referred back to the decision maker, which is cabinet.
If the proposal is lost then the decision to publish a statutory notice triggering an objection period will take effect from the end of the meeting.