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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 16:05 GMT 17:05 UK
29 schools 'to close' in shake-up
Baladeulyn school sign
One of the 29 schools which face closure

Twenty nine schools face closure under radical reforms proposed for primary education in Gwynedd.

Education authorities across Wales have been tackling the issue of falling pupil numbers but this is the biggest closure programme proposed so far.

If agreed, the plans would mean eight new area schools being built, leaving 48 schools across 85 different sites.

Parents and governors have already been critical but Gwynedd Council said it was the "best use" of resources.

Its strategic director of development, Iwan Trefor Jones, said changes were needed because the number of pupils attending the 106 schools in the county had fallen dramatically over 20 years.

SCHOOL BREAKDOWN:
Schools earmarked for closure - 29
Area schools on existing sites - 3
Area schools on new sites - 8
Federal schools - 18 based on 55 sites
Schools staying unchanged - 19
Source: Gwynedd Council proposals

The aim of the changes was to make the best use of facilities and to pay for education, rather than to keep 2,400 empty places, Mr Jones said.

"The main aim here is to promote the best for the children," he added.

"If these proposals are adopted, 30m will be invested in the development of eight new area schools, whilst further funding and money currently spent on unsuitable buildings will be ploughed into maintaining and improving remaining buildings to a high standard."

If councillors back the changes they would be implemented over the next six years.

The schools earmarked to close range from Ysgol Rhydyclafdy with four pupils to Ysgol Borthygest, which has 80 pupils.

Also on the list is Ysgol Llanystumdwy, the former school of former Prime Minister David Lloyd George.

Council leader Richard Parry Hughes said the report had been drawn up following 50 "preliminary consultation meetings" held with parents and governors.

Parents at Baladeulyn school
I'm very unhappy - there was talk of clustering but today it's just closure
Shirley Williams, parent

He said any school closure "created emotion", but the report offered a positive way to move forward in some areas, especially where a federal system would help keep the local school going.

Parents collecting their children from closure-threatened Ysgol Baladeulyn in Nantlle said they were shocked.

"We've had long discussions with them (the council) but they don't seem to have taken any notice of what we have been saying," said parent Shirley Williams.

"I'm very unhappy. There was talk of clustering, but today it's just closure."

There has also been political unrest.

Gwynedd councillor Penri Jones resigned his position as the education portfolio leader, while another senior councillor resigned from the Plaid Cymru group.

Simon Glyn, the Plaid member for Tudweiliog, said he would be urging people to put aside their political differences to unite in a campaign to oppose the plans.

Glyn Owen from the Lleyn School Governors Forum accused the council of "betraying" small rural schools.

On merging schools under a federal system, Rhostryfan school governor Dewi Tomos added: "Four schools could disappear to be taken over under one federal school.

"OK, the children will remain on four sites, but the schools themselves will cease to be individual schools - that is a kick to those communities."

Eryl Owain from teaching union Ucac said the proposed changes were "revolutionary" and there was concern about the effect on communities and jobs.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Parents say they will fight the closures



SEE ALSO
Governors refuse school changes
27 Oct 06 |  North West Wales
Parents discuss small school plan
30 Jun 06 |  North West Wales

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