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Community speaks out on proposals for Swansea valley super school

CONSULTATIONS over a controversial £22 million school proposal in the Swansea Valley have been extended this month, after a series of face to face meetings organised by the local authority for feedback from residents.

The move came as parents, teachers and residents were said to have shown “overwhelming” opposition to the plans to replace three local primary schools in the borough, arguing they were unsuitable and damaging to both education and community life.
The consultation period has now been extended from January 24, to February 7, with discussions focusing on the fiercely debated proposals for a new-build school for three to eleven-year-olds based on a site at Parc Ynysderw, Pontardawe.

Plans say the school would accommodate approximately 630 full-time pupils, alongside 140 part-time nursery age pupils, replacing three Swansea Valley primary schools in the current catchment areas of Alltwen Primary, Godre’rgraig Primary, and Llangiwg primary, all of which are set to close on August 31, 2025.
It  would also include a new six-lane swimming pool and specialist learning support centre if given the go-ahead by council bosses over the coming months.
The proposals have been the centre of much controversy since the original plans for the site were legally challenged by a Welsh-medium education parents group named Rhieni Dros Addysg Gymraeg in 2022.

A judicial review found in favour of this challenge, brought forward on three grounds relating to the notion that a Welsh Language Impact Assessment should have been consulted upon at the same time as the school consultation.
As this impact assessment has since been conducted by the local authority, its new rainbow coalition decided to review the decision at a meeting on November 30, with council education officials recommending a fresh round of consultations for the plans. These were originally set to run from December 5, 2022, to January 24, 2023, though were later extended until February 7.

Susie Davies is Chair of Governors at Godre’rgraig Primary School, one of the schools set to close under the plans, and says there are a number of reasons that residents are so concerned about these proposals going ahead.
She said: “It’s bad for pupils, it’s bad for education, and its bad for the town of Pontardawe. While I do think the council are hearing the concerns raised by residents, at the moment they are just ignoring them.
“It doesn’t make any sense at all, and I just don’t understand why anyone would continue to push through something like this, that is absolutely against public opinion in the area, and nobody wants. I’ve written a letter to the director of education outlining these concerns and I hope people continue to make their voices heard.”
In the letter she wrote: “In my view, the proposal for a new large school is not in the interest of any pupil affected. It will damage the environment by increasing traffic and congestion.
“It will reduce activity levels in children by making it much harder for most pupils to walk to school. It is unnecessary and unwanted as demonstrated by the fact that 91% of respondents to the earlier consultation were against the plan.”
Davies goes on to describe what she beleives to be a number of issues with the proposals- some relating to the accessibility of the site due to the size catchment area, as some families say their children would have a distance of more than five miles to travel each way.
She also raised further concerns around free transport, with many children no longer able to walk to school, along with the ability of in Pontardawe’s infrastructure to support the increased volume of traffic.

Plaid Cymru Member of Senedd, Sioned Williams echoed these sentiments this week, drawing attention to the ‘overwhelming’ strength of feeling that parents, teachers and residents demonstrated in opposing the proposals.
She also called on Neath Port Talbot Council to axe the controversial plans, and urged residents in the area to make their feelings known during the latest consultation period.
She said:  “It was clear from the huge number of concerns raised in the meeting that there is overwhelming local opposition to these plans. The Council should reject these plans outright and explore different options for each school for new or upgraded school buildings, working with, rather than against parents, governors, and local residents.
“The new Rainbow Coalition in the Council inherited this situation from the previous Labour administration, and deserve credit for properly engaging with the public, unlike the previous Labour administration.
 “But the answers given by officers in the meeting were vague – for example on the additional costs which the plans would create, such as extra school transport and highways work to accommodate the new school. This is an ill-thought out and inappropriate plan. I would urge all local residents to make their voices heard by filling in the new consultation to oppose the plans to shut Swansea Valley schools.”

Following a meeting on January 9, Pontardawe Town Council have also objected to the proposal, while a joint statement released from the governing bodies of Alltwen, Godre’r’graig and Llangiwg primary school show they are rejecting the plans as well.  Neath Port Talbot Council were approached for comment though declined while consultations were ongoing.