Council’s lack of consultation on education brought to Minister’s attention

Council practices described as ‘bonkers’ by Assembly Minister

Concerns about Carmarthenshire County Council’s failure to consult with parents and teachers on wide ranging school closures in the county have been brought to the attention of the Education Minister in Wales. Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM questioned the Welsh Government’s Education Minister Leighton Andrews AM, about local anger that the Labour-Independent council have decided to shut schools in the county without having the decency to discuss the changes with parents. The Minister’s response confirmed he believed it was bad practice to ignore the duty of council’s to consult with the public, whilst branding the procedure followed by the local authority in terms of the closure of Capel Iwan school as ‘bonkers.’

Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM said:

“I was keen to ensure that the Minister was aware of the strength of feeling that exists locally on this issue. Parents who have once again been ignored by the council as they look to close our county schools are very angry. …..”Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said:

“I have been continually frustrated at the way Carmarthenshire County Council has failed to reach out and try and seek the support of local communities where education policy is concerned. It is astonishing to think the Labour-Independent Executive Board believes that they can make massive changes to the way children are treated in the county without consulting with parents on the matter.”

Plaid Cymru’s Education Spokesperson, and a former pupil of Llangain school, Nerys Evans AM added:

“There is a genuine concern about the competence of Carmarthenshire County Councils Education department. There have been a series of bad decisions taken and it appears that the Labour-Independnet group are bitterly opposed to any form of public consultation where education is concerned. I am not sure how much longer this attitude can continue without having a detrimental impact on the future of children in the county.”

Jonathan Edwards MP added:

“A lack of consultation will inevitably lead to a lack of understanding of local needs and as a result poor education decisions being made. The council has a credibility gap in the way they have enforced sweeping education changes and unless they address their failures to speak to the very people these proposals will impact upon that issue will not be resolved.”

ENDS / DIWEDD

Notes to Editor:

Transcript from the Assembly session:

Rhodri Glyn Thomas: Minister, one of the issues that you currently have to face—and future Ministers for education will also have to face this—is the very difficult process, which can be an emotional experience for communities, of having to close schools that are no longer viable given their falling rolls and that cannot deliver the national curriculum. Do you believe that it is vital in those situations that local authorities consult fully and give everyone involved with a school the opportunity to express their opinions and understand the process? Minister, I understand that you have had a problem with a school in my constituency, YsgolCapelIwan. It is now acknowledged that the problem was that the education authority had not started the process early enough, and I am pleased that you have made that clear to it and to everyone else, and that you are dealing with that. Do you agree that local authorities have a responsibility to undertake a consultation process in an appropriate manner, and that people should not feel as though the decision was made before the consultation process was begun?

Leighton Andrews: As you know, in June, I announced plans to address the issue of school reorganisation and we are currently consulting on some of the regulations. We will also require a proposed Measure to implement some of the other changes that we want to bring forward. However, none of our actions obviate the need for local authorities to consult properly with local communities on the plans that they have for future school reorganisation. You highlighted the example of YsgolCapelIwan in your constituency. That situation was one where the local authority had failed to start the consultation process, even though it knew at the beginning of this year that the school was down to about a dozen pupils. As I have been quoted widely as saying during August, the situation was completely ‘bonkers’.

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