Cyflwynwyd gan:Cyng / Cllr Paul Rowlinson
The Cabinet resolved that its original decision made on 15 September 2020 should not be revised, which was to conduct a statutory consultation in accordance with the requirements of section 48 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013, on the proposed motion to close Ysgol Abersoch on 31 August 2021 and to provide a place for the pupils at Ysgol Sarn Bach from 1 September 2021 onwards, and adopted this as its final decision.
Submitted by Cllr Paul Rowlinson
The Cabinet resolved that its original decision made on 15 September 2020 should not be revised, which was to conduct a statutory consultation in accordance with the requirements of section 48 of the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013, on the proposed motion to close Ysgol Abersoch on 31 August 2021 and to provide a place for the pupils at Ysgol Sarn Bach from 1 September 2021 onwards, and adopt this as its final decision.
The report was submitted, noting that the item was being brought back to the Cabinet following a decision by members of the Education and Economy Scrutiny Committee to call in the decision made to hold a statutory consultation on the proposal to close Ysgol Abersoch. The Chair of the Scrutiny Committee provided the rationale and the background behind the decisions of the Scrutiny Committee, as well as the details of the vote at the committee.
The Local Member added that as a result of the pandemic, the period to come was not entirely clear with regards to further restrictions. As a result, he noted that not everyone in the community would have an opportunity to be part of the consultation. He emphasised that closing the school would mean losing a resource in the community and would put the education of the children at risk, as well as the language and culture of the area. He noted that holding the consultation would be unjust and unfair. The Cabinet was asked to defer the consultation for a year so that discussions could hopefully take place at face-to-face meetings. It was asked whether it was fair to continue due to the situation with the Headteacher currently being away from school, and the fact that it would be impossible for the Governors to provide guidance.
The Cabinet Member thanked the Local Member for presenting the current situation. He expressed that the department had been completely respectful towards the Headteacher's situation, noting that the discussions had already been postponed once. It was added that within the Act, Headteachers did not have a statutory role within the consultation.
The Education Officer highlighted the process, noting that informal discussions had been held and were now moving forward to a statutory consultation. It was expressed that sessions would be held virtually, but that sessions would be offered, according to the demand, over the phone for any questions to be asked. He emphasised that any response to the consultation would need to be submitted in writing.
Observations arising from the discussion
¾ Sympathy was expressed with the concerns of holding a consultation during this time. It was asked whether there would be any implications to postponing the consultation. It was noted that the main implications would be for the children's education. It was expressed that there was a level of uncertainty during the pandemic as there was currently no end in sight. It was added that there were procedures in place to hold them virtually.
¾ It was emphasised that the most important element when considering the situation was the children's education, and it was emphasised the driver for the work was the Education Principles.
¾ It was highlighted that the decision to close the school had not yet been made, and that the decision made was to go to a consultation. It was highlighted that, whilst it was understood that people wished to have face-to-face meetings to discuss, any response to the consultation would need to be given in writing.
¾ It was asked whether the department was entirely certain that everyone would be able to contribute to the consultation. It was noted that the department would make every attempt to receive contributions from everyone who wished to contribute. It was noted that, with the observations already received, the department would contact them directly to ask whether they would be happy for the observations to be used in the consultation.
¾ It was noted that the country had now been in a pandemic for months, and if this was postponed for a year, there was no guarantee that we would not be in the same situation in a year. It was emphasised that everyone could participate and it was expressed that the role of the local member would be pivotal to the consultation in order to ensure that everyone's voice was heard. It was noted that it was required to move forward with the decision.
¾ The need to keep an eye on the consultation was expressed, and the department was asked to provide a regular report on how the process was moving forward.
After weighing up what the Scrutiny Committee had highlighted, the guidance of the officers and the reasons for the original decision, the Cabinet did not consider that the matters raised justified an amendment to the original decision.