NEWS ITEM

The Cabinet members of Pembrokeshire County Council will meet on Monday the 19/05/03 at 10.00am to determine the fate of the successful Hermon Village School. The school is full to capacity and is educationally and financially sound. The proposal document compiled by the Pembrokeshire’s Director of Education – Mr Gerson Davies arrived at the school last Thursday where parents and Teachers were dismayed at the unfair hearing given to counter proposals presented by the Hermon School. Please see below the official response that the Hermon Parents wish to be considered and responded to during the Cabinets meeting on Monday. Should you require further information please contact Nerys Nicholas – Chair of the Hermon School Governors on 01239 831701 or Cris Tomos Chair of the Hermon Nursery School on 01239 831962. – See the letter below for full details or visit the village website to gain further background information on  www.hermonglogue.co.uk

 

Hermon Community School Campaign

 

The primary school for the villages of Hermon, Glogue & Llanfyrnach

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                                               Without Prejudice

 

Date:  16th May 2003

 

 

 

 

F.A.O. All Pembrokeshire County Council Cabinet Members

 

 

 

 

Dear Cabinet Members

 

Re: Cabinet Meeting 19/05/03 – Agenda Item No. 8 – Report from the Director of Education and Community Services.

 

We the parents of Hermon Community School would appreciate your consideration regarding our response to the Recommendation Report provided to you by the Director of Education and Community Services.  This lengthy document does not provide a true account of consultation conducted during recent months, particularly in terms of issues discussed with the parents of Hermon Community School. The Summary of the finding as shown on page 150 of the document commences in a most unfounded manner, in that it states that there is only “one option”, “the only feasible option since it had majority support”. Hermon Parents have presented an alternative option of utilising the Community Resource Centre that is to be built adjacent to the Hermon School as an additional modern educational facility for primary education at day and community use during the evening. The plans have been commissioned by Julian Bishop Architects where a 99-year lease on the land immediately adjacent to the school will enable easy access to the school children. The new building will address all the issues raised regarding school access to indoor lavatories, ICT education, modern facilities etc. The members of the cabinet have received copies of the Hermon Initiative direct form us as has the Director of Education earlier in the year, but there is no reference or consideration to this option within the document. The community resource centre would be financed by a Community Facilities Funds bid with “Clear Skies” national funding – with little or no funds required by the County Council – a most attractive financial proposition for the council educational budgets. PLEASE REQUEST A FORMAL REPLY FROM THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AS TO WHY THIS OPTION HAS NOT BEEN TABLED FOR DEBATE.

 

The so called “majority support” for the rationalisation plans is also an unfounded statement since there has been no formal parental preferences exercise carried out by the Director of Education, the only factual research has been that of a parents Questionnaire Form conducted by Hermon School. The main result from the questionnaire was to highlight that parents of Hermon School would transfer their children to Tegryn or Glandwr School should Hermon School be forced to shut. The findings from the questionnaire along with a copy of the form was sent to the Director of Education, AGAIN no copy has been published or reference made to this IMPORTANT issue within the recommendation document. We are also aware of numerous parents at Blaenffos School who have stated that they will be transferring their children to Eglwyswrw School. The projected number of children for the new school according to The Director of Education is only 147 by 2005 (capacity 180) – where on page 158 the methodology is outlined in detail.  PLEASE REQUEST A SATMENT FROM THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION AS TO WHAT EFFECT THE TRANSFER OF 50 + HERMON & BLAENFFOS CHILDREN TO OTHER NEARBY VILLAGE SCHOOLS WILL HAVE ON THE VIABILITY OF THE PROPOSED AREA SCHOOL. ALSO WHY HAS THE FACTUAL RESEARCH NOT BEEN MENTIONED OR INDEED WHY WAS THERE NOT AN OFFICIAL RESEARCH DOCUMENT CIRCULATED TO ALL PARENTS BY THE COUNCIL. To reinforce our argument that there is not a genuine demand in the area for closing all 3 schools please refer to the very final consultation meeting held on the 13/03/03, where all representatives from the 3 schools were invited to finalise issues and confirm the wishes of the majority of parents in the 3 schools. (see page 346) One would have thought that such a meeting would reinforce the so called majority’s desire to close Hermon School – as you see there were 20 people present 16 from Hermon all of who were opposed to the Closure of Hermon School with 4 from Crymych School and no parents from Blaenffos School. Those parents from Crymych who voiced their opinion again reiterated that it was an underhand manipulation of resources to insist that Hermon School had to be shut before the council agreed to release fund to improve the Crymych primary campus. As one parent put it “emotional blackmail while messing with children’s education and well-being” THE 80% MAJORITY OF THIS FINAL AREA MEETING DID NOT WISH TO SEE HERMON SCHOOL CLOSE.

 

We wish to correct the Director of Educations note on Hermon Schools rejection of the Annex option. Firstly the option of an annex was table by County Council where initially the reaction of the parents was negative. During meetings held by the governors and parents of Hermon it was agreed that the governors request further information as to the operational issues of maintaining an annex at Hermon. The governors did outline their request to the Director of Education but to date no formal written response has been received to the specific questions. THEREFORE THE GOVERNERS AND PARENTS OF HERMON HAVE NOT REJECTED NOR HAVE THEY ACCEPTED THE OFFER OF AN ANNEX  - WE CONTINUE TO AWAIT A RESPONSE UNDER THE CONSULTATION PROCESS.  PLEASE ASK THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION TO CONFIRM THIS.

 

The parents of Hermon School wish also to raise a fundamental reporting error within this document. The financial consideration in the provision of education is naturally important when deciding the future viability of a small rural school.  We have examined the latest EDUCATION BUDGET STATEMENT for YEAR 2003-04 as circulated to all schools by the Director of Education, where we see that the report tables all primary school financial budgets per child. The report shows that there are 10,749 primary pupils and a total county budget of £27,531,294 that equates to £2,561 per pupil. Why therefore has the Director of Education reported on page 172 of the recommendation document that the average cost per pupil is £2,279 for 2003-2004. With Hermon School showing a £2,479 cost per pupil it is IMPORTANT that cabinet members have a true understanding of the costings. PLEASE ASK THE DIRECTOR OF EDUCATION TO CONFIRM THE CORRECT FIGURE. It is also worth noting that the current north Pembrokeshire Area schools have pupil figure as follows –  Maenclochog 99, Cilgerran 105, Bro Ingli 98, Eglwyswrw 123, Brynconin 91, St Dogmaels 105; this highlight the president set in terms of average size of north Pembrokeshire area schools. To build a 180 size area school in Crymych is completely out of context but taking the 52 Hermon pupil numbers out of the equation would provide Crymych with an area school that is representative of the pattern set to date.

 

We see that the Director of Education wishes to invest in an E-Learning Centre, A New Area School, a new Early Years Centre, a new primary school hall and upgrade the secondary school. This will mean the loss of more plying fields at the secondary school. The parents of Hermon have continually argued that the site at Crymych will become too congested and that the logistics of traffic and space will prove a huge problem. We understand that certain adult learning courses organised at Crymych are now being delivered at community centres in other villages such as the community Hall at Boncath, this indicates that there is a demand for a non-centralised provision and for a less congested provision. The new resource centre at Hermon would again provide a useful satellite to the hub at Crymych.

 

As stated on numerous occasions we are not happy with the consultation process undertaken and have already commenced corresponding with the cabinet and shadow members of the National Welsh Assembly. We have pointed out our arguments to the first minister Rhodri Morgan and also reminded him of the broadcast he made on the 29/04/03 – on BBC Wales – Where having recorded the programme the parents of Hermon have requested that he confirms his statement “that there is no case for the closure of a small primary school which is financially and educationally sound” We have also pointed out that Hermon school is full with a strong future in terms of demand for a sound village primary education.

 

The Director of Education makes specific reference to life long learning and the Assembly’s policies on The Learning Country. The Directors desire to see an early years provision under the above policy is a provision that currently exists on the Hermon school site. Since Hermon School provides the education for a cluster of villages – namely Llanfyrnach, Glogue and Hermon there is also a strong Mothers Toddlers group (Cylch Ti a Fi) also a Quality Assured Nursery on site (Cylch Meithrin Rhagorol). The Quality Assured Nursery has been classified for receiving the Early Years Grant Funding for 3 year olds, so we hope you appreciate that the Hermon School Site is operating an effective progression plan from early years to primary with young children familiarising themselves with the progression requirement of Key Stage 1. The introduction of the Foundation Phase to replace Early Years and KS1 is being strategically discussed by the parents and staff of the Hermon Nursery and School. It is unfortunate to note that the Nursery School Parents have not had a direct Consultation Process to discuss the future of Nursery Provision in the Hermon Blaenffos & Crymych area. Knowing that there is an intention to build an Early Years School at Crymych attached to the proposed new Area Primary School it would have been a decent gesture to offer a ring fenced consultation with the 3 nursery’s, 2 Toddler groups and private nursery providers who currently endeavour to make a commercial living in the area. It could be argued that the grant funded Early Learning Centre would have a detrimental effect on private providers and that they could be forced out of business. Concerns over such publicly funded intervention into a traditional private sector service have to be voiced.

 

Finally the parents of Hermon wish to underline their support to the parents and governors of Crymych and Blaenffos in wishing to ensure the best educational provision for the children of the area. We are aware of the desperate state of disrepair at Crymych School and would wish to endorse that serious levels of investment to be made available for the current Crymych Primary School Campus. We know that numerous, if not the majority of Blaenffos and Crymych parents wish to receive this capital investment without the unethical conditions of forcing a full and vibrant community school such as Hermon to shut its doors. Although the Director of Education has gone to great lengths to put his views across in the Proposal Document we feel that the document is totally one sided. As a strategic planning document it does not highlight any weaknesses or threat that the proposed area school might have to encounter, such as on block transferring of Children from Hermon to nearby village primaries; logistics of congestion at the Preseli sight, synergies with other Council Department such as the planning department who have agreed to numerous private planning application in Hermon Glog & Llanfyrnach villages – amounting to over 40 new homes with numerous new families boosting the pupil numbers even further… etc.

 

The proposal document has numerous inconsistencies as noted above, with one of the most contentious issues being that of parental choice. The parents of Hermon School wish to continue to send their children to a well-run local village school. The Director of Educations argument of “out side the Catchment Area” is one that has offended those parents whose children have been classified as outside the catchment area. Areas such as Glandwr, Tegryn, Blaenwaun etc..as noted on page 157 of the document are within reasonable distance and although the postal addresses do not fit into the Council Boxes for Catchment area, more often than not each child has a family connection or parents are preparing to build new homes on the above mentioned planning sites in Hermon. It is ironic that the Director of Education who has a home postal address of Coedpoeth, Wrexham, North Wales – over 150 miles from Pembrokeshire can dictate to indigenous rural families where they can or can not take their children to school within their immediate local community. It is possibly the lack of appreciation or understanding for the strong community base within the rural parish of Llanfyrnach that has been the reason why you have sought to undermine the future of our community school. Within the proposal document we read with trepidation that the proposed area school is to be “ground breaking“, please do note take our children as guinea-pigs for you social experiments, where we would advise you that any new ground that you propose to break does not on any circumstance undermine the solid foundations of our rural communities in North East Pembrokeshire.

 

Our counter proposal is that the parents of Crymych and Blaenffos be offered an area school that will see pupil numbers in line with all adjacent area schools and thus leave Hermon School to provide the education for the children of the villages of Glog, Llanfyrnach and Hermon. Should the Cabinet decided to close Hermon School the Governors and Parents will ask the Scrutiny Committee to take up our challenge. We will also be calling on the Audit Commission and District Auditors as well as demanding an Official Assembly Enquiry into the Consultation Process.

 

Yours Sincerely

 

 

 

Parents & Governors of Hermon Community School

 

Copy:

National Assembly for Wales Cabinet Members

National Assembly for Wales Shadow Cabinet Members

BBC Wales, HTV, ITN, Sky News

Western Mail,

Western Telegraph

Radio Pembrokeshire

Radio Wales

Times, Telegraph, Observer, Independent, Sun, Mirror, Mail