Plans to close four rural schools in Powys by August 2022 have been criticised by the Montgomeryshire Liberal Democrats.
Senedd election candidate Alison Alexander said the timing of the announcement made by Powys Council was “dreadful” for families and teachers
Next week, the Cabinet will be asked to start the statutory process to close Castle Caereinion Church in Wales School, Churchstoke County Primary School, Llanbedr Church in Wales School and Llanfihangel Rhydithon County Primary School.
A consultation is expected to start later this month if it is given the go-ahead.
Mrs Alexander said: “Many parents and teachers in affected villages will be reading the statements from Conservative-Independent-run Powys County Council Cabinet trumpeting ambitious plans for ‘educational transformation’ only to be horrified to find this actually means their local schools are ear-marked for closure as part of this ‘grand project’.
“Daily we’re hearing in the news of the toll of this pandemic on everybody’s mental health. The strain on teachers of trying to provide education both in school and online, on parents trying to work at the same time as teaching their children, and on youngsters suffering from lack of social contact with their peers.
“Now parents and teacher have the added stress of learning about the Tory-Independent Cabinet’s plans to close their schools via press announcements. Why on earth are they ploughing ahead with this in the middle of a pandemic?”
“What’s more, it is very hard to see how anyone can undertake a proper community consultation at a time when we’re not allowed to meet in person and large swathes of the constituency are preoccupied with merely coping day to day. Not to mention poor broadband access preventing some attending public meetings online.”
“Powys Liberal Democrat county councillors have already raised concerns over the capital cost of the schools transformation programme, which is set to expand from £323.6 million in 2020/21 to a projected £609.4 million in 2029/30.”
“The cost of redeveloping the listed Ysgol Maesydre building in Welshpool into a modern 150 pupil school for Ysgol Gymraeg y Trallwng, and the recently completed new building for Welshpool Church in Wales School will cost over £19 million, representing an overspend of £5 million compared to the projected costs of £13.7 million in 2017. This means the capital costs per pupil for these schools would be £61,000 per pupil, compared to the Welsh average cost of £24,000 per pupil for new primary schools.
“At some point it has to be asked if the money spent on these overruns in costs couldn’t have been better used elsewhere?”