Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Monday, 17 March 2008

Delay in primary school shake-up

Parents gather outside the council offices in Caernarfon in December 2007
Hundreds of people are against the proposals to close schools

Plans to federalise 55 primary schools in Gwynedd could be postponed for 12 months.

Plaid Cymru, which runs Gwynedd Council, said it wanted the planned uniting of schools under one head teacher to start in 2009.

The change was needed, Plaid said, because the Welsh Assembly Government was looking at new regulations for federalising schools.

There have been widespread protests on Gwynedd schools' reorganisation.

Federalisation of the 55 schools is part of a county-wide reorganisation of primary education which also involves 29 primary schools closing.

Parents, governors and school supporters have campaigned heavily against the proposed changes.

Protest group Llais Gwynedd has said it intends contesting seats in the local council election in May in a bid to stop the reorganisation plan.

Dyfed Edwards
We wish to introduce a new system of federalising schools in Gwynedd that will not mean closing individual schools and will allow schools to preserve their identity
Gwynedd councillor Dyfed Edwards

Plaid in Gwynedd said it was taking advantage of developments taking place nationally in the field of federalisation of schools by asking for a delay of 12 months.

"The current regulations for federalisation of schools are quite strict," said Dyfed Edwards, Gwynedd schools' portfolio holder.

"For example, authorities must go through a process of closing a school before it can become part of a federal system.

'Flexible and congenial'

"We have consistently said that we wish to introduce a new system of federalising schools in Gwynedd that will not mean closing individual schools and will allow schools to preserve their identity and ensure their future sustainability," he said.

"The model that is currently being considered by officials at the assembly is much more flexible and congenial to our circumstances in Gwynedd," he added.

Plaid leader and Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones said: "Gwynedd Council have always made it clear that they will put the education of the children of Gwynedd first, despite the tough decisions they face".

"It is vital that the council can explore all options for its planned reorganisation of schools and the new regulations are expected to give the authority greater flexibility," he added.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society) also welcomed the delay and called for the year to be used to work out local solutions "from the bottom up".

Osian Jones, Cymdeithas organiser in the north, said he believed the "willingness to listen and change policies is a sign of strength rather than weakness".

"We have argued from the start that it would be totally impractical to go through the laborious statutory process of deciding the future of two dozen schools in the county within a year," he said.

"It would also be senseless to attempt to do that before we knew of the new possibilities for clustering arrangements between schools to be revealed in the new assembly guidelines," he added.

The proposal to postpone the federalisation element of the consultation process on primary education will need to go before the full council. This is expected to happen after the local council elections.

The council said opinions on the draft report on plans to reorganise the county's primary schools were being collected at the moment.

"Plaid Cymru's comments will be considered as we evaluate replies to the consultation," said a spokesman.

"A report on the consultation will then be presented to the scrutiny committee for children and young people and to the full council during June 2008," he added.




SEE ALSO
Public meeting on school closures
29 Jan 08 |  North West Wales
Protests ahead of school meetings
12 Dec 07 |  North West Wales
Q&A: Gwynedd's schools review
19 Oct 07 |  North West Wales

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