North East Wales

Ruthin school merger fight won after language concerns

Protestors

Campaigners have won their fight to stop the merger of two schools over language concerns in Denbighshire.

Ysgol Pentrecelyn and Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, both in Ruthin, were to shut and be replaced by one school educating pupils in English or Welsh.

But backers of Ysgol Pentrecelyn complained the council did not consult properly.

Judges agreed and ruled the council's decision was unlawful on procedural grounds.

Currently, Ysgol Pentrecelyn is a category one Welsh-medium school, meaning all pupils are educated in the language.

Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd is a category two school, meaning parents can choose what language their children are educated in - with 80% currently opting for Welsh-medium.

The claim, brought by former Ysgol Pentrecelyn pupil, Aron Wyn Jones, 19, who has two sisters and two brothers currently at the school, argued the council had failed to take into account the language and community impact of the creation of a single-site school.

Mr Justice Hickingbottom and Judge Milwyn Jarman QC quashed the closure decision, concluding the consultation process was legally flawed and the council had not been given "an appropriate opportunity" to suggest alternative options.

But they warned it was overruled on "procedural grounds and not of course on the merits".

The judgement handed down by the pair read: "It is open to the council to reconsider the matter, lawfully, in the light of the guidance in this judgment; and, of course, the decision the council might reach on that reconsideration cannot be foretold."

Denbighshire council said it was disappointed with the decision and it would take time to reflect on the judgement and the guidance given by the court.

Parent Nia Môn, of the Ymgyrch Pentrecelyn campaign group, said the group took on the action not only to benefit their own children, but to safeguard the interests of Welsh-language education across Wales.

"It beggars belief that the council ever thought it appropriate to downgrade our children's Welsh language education in such a Welsh-speaking area, but they added insult to injury by subjecting us to an unclear 'consultation' exercise that the court rightly described as 'hopelessly confused'," she said.

"The Welsh language, and local taxpayers, deserve much better than this."

Geraint Lewis Jones, chairman of the governors at Ysgol Llanfair Duffryn Clwyd, said governors and parents were disappointed with the result.

"Although concerning procedure, it still flies in the face of the democratic will of the vast majority of parents who support the new area bilingual school," he said.

He added they hoped the decision would not jeopardise the creation of a new area school which the community "so desperately needs".

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