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Last Updated: Monday, 26 July, 2004, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
School closure 'threat to village'
Hermon playground scene
Campaigners have lobbied for two years against closure plans
Closing a rural school and sending pupils to a new one a few miles away could threaten the future of an entire village, the High Court has heard.

Children in Hermon, Pembrokeshire, could lose their identity if they had to travel to nearby Crymych, which has a different "atmosphere", the Cardiff hearing was told.

The court heard that parents feared that closing it could make their children more likely to leave the area for good eventually.

In April, parents of the 53 pupils were given permission to challenge Pembrokeshire Council's closure decision.

Nicholas Bowen, representing the parents, told Mr Justice Jack: "Parents fear that if they lose the school then the future of this village is threatened."

The thrust of the parents' case is that there is something very special in Welsh terms about this type of village
Nicholas Bowen, representing Hermon parents
Hermon has a population of 300 and has a pub, hairdresser, two chapels, a garage, florist and ironmonger, he said.

The council's decision would see pupils of Hermon school and another in nearby Blaenffos transferred to a new 1.5m area school in Crymych, which has about 600 inhabitants.

Parent and children in the village
Parents argue that village life will be affected if the school closes

Building work is due to be carried out in the coming academic year, with pupils of the new school being taught at three sites until it is complete.

But Mr Bowen said: "Parents may not wish their children to travel for fear they will lose their identity and be more likely to move away later. There are concerns that traditional Welsh-speaking areas are vulnerable to depopulation.

"The thrust of the parents' case is that there is something very special in Welsh terms about this type of village. Hermon is a village where the language of the playground is automatically Welsh."

Crymych, however, has a different "atmosphere", he told the court.

He added: "Here, a significant number of families are Welsh language speakers as a second language, not as the first language," he said.

"The bulk of parents at Hermon are dedicated Welsh-speakers. It is the language of home, rather than an alternative language to English."

Mr Bowen told the court on Monday that Hermon school, which opened in 1875, had a "unique, nurturing atmosphere" where the parents were close and cohesive.

Admitting it was a "very contentious" point, the barrister claimed: "It is a marked feature of this case that Pembrokeshire (council) have really sought to eradicate small village schools from the county and have been largely successful."

The council has argued that the 1.5m new school will have better facilities for all children.

The hearing is due to last for three days.


SEE ALSO:
School judicial review starts
26 Jul 04  |  South West Wales
School campaigners get legal aid
24 May 04  |  South West Wales
School court fight 'disgraceful'
23 Apr 04  |  South West Wales
Minister backs village school closure
12 Jan 04  |  South West Wales


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