North East Wales

Denbighshire council backs down over school merger

School closures protest

A council has dropped plans to merge a Welsh-language school with a mixed language one after the High Court ruled its proposals "hopelessly flawed".

Denbighshire council wanted to create a new bilingual school by shutting Ysgol Pentrecelyn and Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd in Ruthin and opening a new site.

Pentrecelyn parents had campaigned vigorously against the plan, saying the school's Welsh character would be lost.

Councillors voted on Tuesday to keep the school.

In August, the High Court quashed the closure decision following a claim brought by former Pentrecelyn pupil Aron Wyn Jones, who argued the council had failed to take into account the language and community impact of a single site school.

All pupils in Ysgol Pentrecelyn are educated in Welsh, whilst in the Church in Wales Ysgol Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd pupils can be educated in either Welsh or English, with 80% choosing Welsh-medium education at present.

At the time of the ruling, Denbighshire council said it was disappointed with the outcome of the decision and would reflect on the guidance given by the court.

'Wider impact'

In a report to Tuesday's cabinet meeting, head of education and children's services Karen Evans said as the judicial review did not criticise the objectives, it would be "perfectly logical" for the authority to consider whether to restart the consultation on the original proposals whilst acknowledging criticism of the process.

However she continued: "The authority also needs to consider the wider impact based on the current situation."

She said the council must give due regard to the impact of any future proposal on community cohesion, in particular that which had an impact on the learners themselves.

"It is clear from discussions with both school communities that there is no appetite to revisit the same proposal in the current circumstances," Ms Evans added.

"The authority agrees that conducting a consultation on the same proposal, even with a perfect process, risks further community divisions and legal challenges.

"It is equally clear that the status quo for Ysgol Llanfair cannot continue and that the area is in need of a sustainable category 2 [bilingual] school."

Councillors followed the recommendation on Tuesday which will allow the 56-pupil Ysgol Pentrecelyn to remain open and for a new Church in Wales school to be built in Llanfair on a safer site closer to many of the pupils' homes.

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