THE Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, has
strongly criticised Denbighshire County Council for attempting to
close a Church in Wales primary school at Llanbedr Dyffryn Ceiriog
twice in 12 months. Last week, less than a month after the previous
closure proposal was rejected by the Welsh Education Minister, Huw
Lewis, councillors agreed to consult on a fresh plan to shut the
school in August 2016.
A statement from the county council, announcing the new move,
quoted, in support, a letter sent on behalf of the Minister,
confirming that his decision had been based on a technical issue,
"notwithstanding the merits of the proposal". It went on: "He is
satisfied that the council has a coherent educational case for the
closure of Ysgol Llanbedr."
Bishop Cameron said that the latest step had been taken before
consultation with the diocese: "It seems the council has prejudged
the issue, and, if such a dismissive approach is maintained, we
cannot see how councillors mean to have any honest consultation on
the future of this school and the interests of its pupils."
The director of education at the diocese of St Asaph, Roz
Williams, said that the announcement was devastating. "We shall be
seeking legal advice," she said.
In an unusual move this week, a spokesman for the diocese's
legal advisers, Lee Bolton Monier-Williams, questioned the
impartiality of the ministerial letter. "He has given such
extensive guidance to the local authority as to how it might
proceed that he has almost certainly compromised his impartiality,
should he need to act in any future appeal," a spokesman said.
"In addition, he has rendered the proposed new consultation a
farce. Consultations are about real alternatives. Both the Minister
and the local authority have, in effect, pre-determined the
outcome. There is no longer any real alternative being
Ysgol Llanbedr, founded by the National Society in 1829, is one
of the oldest schools in Wales, and has been on its present site
since 1864. It was first earmarked for closure during a review
three years ago, and pupil numbers fell. The council says that,
with 22 full-time and 11 part-time pupils, the school now has
surplus places, but, according to the diocese, numbers are growing.
Both the nursery and reception classes are over-subscribed, and
after-school activities are well supported. Parents who took part
in the previous consultation were unanimously opposed to the
The Rector of Llanbedr and chair of the school governors, the
Revd Philip Chew, said that, after last month's rejection of the
previous closure proposal, the community had hoped for a period of
stability to allow the school to return to full capacity. "But", he
said, "such an outcome would obviously undermine the council's
longstanding agenda to close the school."
School may become voluntary aided. Ysgol Dewi
Sant, the only secondary school in St Davids, could become a
voluntary aided Church in Wales school after being saved from
threatened closure in a review of education provision in
Efforts to save the 500-pupil local-authority comprehensive were
strongly backed by the community at St Davids Cathedral, Canon
Dorrien Davies said. "When the school was under threat, churchgoers
and non-churchgoers alike looked to the cathedral for support," he
said. St Davids, which has a population of only 1600, is the
smallest city in the UK.
The diocesan director of education for St Davids, Canon Bryan
Witt, said that many cathedral choristers were pupils at the
school, and, with strong support, he hoped that the change of
status would be favourably considered. The move also has Roman
The Church in Wales currently has three secondary schools in
south Wales, and a joint Church in Wales-Roman Catholic
comprehensive in Wrexham.