Thursday, 22 July 2010

Secondary schools: Closer collaboration for sure, but closure ... absolutely not!

Powys County Council’s secondary school modernisation programme remains one of the most controversial issues in local government that we have seen for a very long time.

Over a decade of neglect from Labour led Assembly governments and an unprecedented level of economic incompetence from a Labour government in Westminster has left us in Powys well used to the continual fight to save local services. The threat of closure to primary schools, post offices, community hospitals, public toilets, libraries and leisure facilities, amongst many other services, will remain firmly etched in the minds of Powys residents as the consequences of Labour’s disastrous economic legacy.

Small primary schools in particular have felt under siege over the last few years. All too often I receive letters or emails from parents or teachers, worrying about the future of their school. I note how the residents of Clyro are the latest community to launch a campaign to fight to keep their primary school safe from the current closure threat. I have witnessed on more than one occasion how the closure of a primary school can rip the heart out of a community. The closure of a secondary school is much rarer indeed; in fact comparatively speaking, seldom do you hear such proposals. For the closure of several secondary schools within a single authority like Powys to remain on the table as a legitimate proposal is absolutely shocking and quite possibly unprecedented.

If the closure of a primary school can rip the heart out of a community, then communities are rightfully fearful of being torn asunder by secondary school closures.

I have visited some of these secondary schools recently and I simply cannot imagine the closure of any one. Change and modernisation is often a necessity but the solution to Powys County Council’s very serious problem with secondary education funding must be resolved by means other than closure. Closer collaboration between schools, the streamlining of services and the sharing of resources are other less extreme options being looked at.

Whatever the decision, we must see all of Powys’ thirteen secondary schools remain open, including their sixth forms.

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