Mid Wales

600 protest against Powys secondary schools closure plan

pupils hold Save Our School banners at a protest outside the council offices

About 600 pupils, parents and teachers have gathered to hand in a petition against plans to reorganise secondary school education in Powys.

Powys's cabinet wants to replace two schools in Brecon with a new-build English medium secondary, and close Llandrindod Wells High School.

The council said three schools were in special measures and it had to "take action for the sake of our learners".

The cabinet has voted for a full consultation to be carried out.

People from Llandrindod Wells gathered outside the town's council offices to oppose the plan to shut Llandrindod Wells's school and the dual-language Builth Wells High School, replacing both with a new dual-language site in Builth Wells.

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Media captionMatt Murray reports

Deputy mayor Jon Williams, who is also on the board of governors at Llandrindod Wells High, said the council's figures did not add up.

"We have got the full backing of the townsfolk and the business people because if the high school was to shut and move to Builth Wells it would have a knock-on effect on the town's businesses and the future of the town," he told BBC News.

He said no other option had been put forward, but suggested a better solution to sustain both schools would be to retain Llandrindod Wells High as an English-medium school and convert Builth to a Welsh-medium only school.

"Llandrindod has a bigger catchment area so we are already drawing in pupils from 10-15 miles away," he said.

"It would extend their journeys to up to 23 miles every day [to go to Builth] or they'd have to travel 30 miles the other way to Newtown."

'Decisive action'

In south Powys, Gwernyfed and Brecon secondary schools would also close and be replaced by an English-medium secondary school in Brecon under the plans.

Arwel Jones, schools' cabinet member, said the plan allowed for a broader post-16 curriculum at one location, would improve cost effectiveness and efficiency, cut maintenance costs and reduce surplus places.

Image caption Councillor Arwel Jones accepts the petition from the school's chairman of governors Maurice Thorn

He also said the proposed new site in Builth Wells would provide a "critical mass" of pupils at post-16 level, enabling more subjects to be taught in one location and reduce travel and transport needs.

He added: "Decisive action is needed in the region to strengthen our secondary provision. Three of the four secondary schools are in special measures and the fourth is subject to Estyn monitoring.

"We must take action for the sake of our young learners."

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