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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 December, 2004, 11:54 GMT
Demo over small school closures
Parents, pupils and politicians took part in Wednesday's rally
Around 200 people have demonstrated on the steps of Carmarthenshire's county hall over a 110m education shake-up that could see up to 32 schools close.

Parents, pupils and politicians took part in the rally early on Wednesday.

They were opposing a local authority plan to shut small village schools and replace them with 19 newly built 'area' primary schools.

Carmarthenshire council said the 10 year programme would improve facilities and teaching.

How many people would put a 4-year-old on a one hour bus journey?
Will Rathouse

The rally was organised by Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society).

The organisation's education spokesman Ffred Ffransis said communities were not being consulted on the policy.

"This place is being run like a private corporation with no consultation for the members let alone the public," he told the crowd.

"This is no way to run a democratic county council."

Among those taking part in the rally were Will and Samantha Rathouse of Rhandirmwyn.

Will and Samantha Rathouse
Will and Samantha Rathouse said they felt let-down by the plans

Mr Rathouse said: "Our local school is Cilcwm which is a church school. They are also planning to close our neighbouring school at Cynghordy.

"If these both close our nearest church school will be in Carmarthen, the nearest primary school in Llandovery.

"It's a one hour journey each way - how many people would put a 4-year-old on a one hour bus journey.

"This government promised 'education, education, education' when it was first elected and now we are being let down in a major way."

His wife added: "These small schools develop better social skills for the children then any large school could."

But Carmarthenshire Council says the policy of replacing small schools with new modern buildings serving larger areas was agreed three years ago.

It said thats many school buildings were no longer suitable for teaching children - with some lacking indoor toilets, assembly halls and sports facilities.

Initial changes already confirmed included a new school for pupils at Copperworks and Lakefield in Llanelli; a 3.25m school to replace Bryn Primary in Llanelli; a 4m school for Ysgol Gymraeg Dewi Sant in Llanelli; and new schools for both Brynsierfel and Penygroes.

Parents have vowed to continue to fight any closures

There will also be new school in Pembrey, Trimsaran and Peniel, near Carmarthen.

In Carmarthen, Maridunum and Queen Elizabeth Cambria secondary schools will be merged with a 25m comprehensive to be built.

Future schemes include 5m for two new schools in the area serving Cefneithin, Drefach, Cross Hands, Maesybont, Cwmgwili and Nantygroes.

Two new schools will also be built in the area serving Ffairfach, Llandeilo, Nantygroes, Trap, Ysgol Teilo Sant and Cwmifor.

New schools will be built in the areas serving Talley, Caio, Rhydcymerau, Brechfa, Llansawel, and Gwynfryn, Ponthenri, Pontiets and Carway.

A 3m school will also be built in the area serving Llandybie, Blaenau and Nantygroes.

Thirteen of the new schools will provide Welsh medium education.

The council's director of lifelong learning, Alun Davies, said: "The modernisation strategy was approved in 2001 by an executive board, then made up of Independent and Plaid Cymru members, and was subsequently approved by full county council.

"The current executive board has recently approved a draft implementation plan. That plan includes a number of proposed organisational changes.

"This programme is about huge investment in our schools to provide a better all round education for every child in Carmarthenshire.

"It will ensure that all pupils, staff and communities have access to the right schools in the right locations, which are fit for purpose in the 21st century."

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