Wrexham Council at its worst

I've written a few posts about how Wrexham need to meet the ever increasing parental demand for Welsh-medium education, and have been particularly critical of their lackadaisical approach to the problem. This was highlighted by the Council's Chief Learning and Achievement Officer, John Davies, in December last year when he said:

In October we went out to public consultation with a wide range of options for having Welsh language education. We have now decided to consult more specifically on three. After that we will carry out a feasibility study on available sites and see what’s possible.

Once we have come up with an identified solution to this, we will come back to the executive board then use the information to make a bid to the Welsh Assembly Government for the project.

It could take at least another three months to carry out the feasibility study and then present a bid. The whole process could take up to three years.”

Wrexham Leader, 12 December 2009

As I said at the time in this post:

I don't think it takes any particular genius to work out what is going on.

•  First, the council is just trying to drag things out as long as possible.

•  But second, they are trying to shift the focus away from their own responsibility to provide WM places onto the Assembly government. They are, in effect, saying they'll only do it if the Assembly pays for it. They'll just sit on their hands until then.

However the situation has turned out to be even worse than that. The breaking news on the Plaid Wrecsam blog is that the Council's Children and Young People's Scrutiny Committee has now been told that their officers do not even want to make an application for the money.

Mae angen i'r cyngor roi cais gerbron Llywodraeth y Cynulliad i gael arian o gronfa "Ysgolion 21ain Ganrif" a does fawr o amser er mwyn gwneud hynny mae'n debyg. Oherwydd y prinder amser i wneud achos teilwng, doedd y swyddogion ddim am gyflwyno cais i ariannu ysgol Gymraeg newydd.

The Council need to make an application to the Assembly Government to get money from the 21st Century Schools fund, and it appears that there's not much time left in which to do it. Because of the short time available to make a proper case, the officers were not willing to submit an application to fund a new Welsh-medium school.

Plaid Wrecsam, 21 April 2010 • Translation

I find this almost unbelievable, not least because they have been aware of the need for new WM schools since 2007. It is nothing short of an insult to the parents of children who are now crammed into portacabins because of the lack of space in the existing WM schools, and provides no solution at all to the parents of a hundred or so children each year who want WM education, but for whom there is no hope of a space.

It reflects very badly on the Council and in particular on its Liberal Democrat leader, Aled Roberts, who only last month said he was against things that would "damage Welsh identity and language" in Wrexham. What greater threat could there possibly be to the language in Wrexham than to deny parents who want it the right to send their children to Welsh-medium schools?

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The scandal of the situation is that Wrexham have nearly three thousand surplus spaces in their English-medium primary schools (2,809 according to their SEP in 2006) ... yet they have the barefaced cheek to only contemplate providing more WM places if the Welsh Government pays for it! The much simpler and more obvious solution is to make better use of the stock of school buildings they already have – either by setting up WM starter classes in EM schools that have plenty of surplus space, or by converting one or two EM schools to WM. Doing that does not require any money, it just requires better management of resources.

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Is this what we are to expect from a LibDem council? Is it a coincidence that in Swansea, another LibDem council, we get an almost exactly parallel approach? It seems strange that each of these councils started by doing the right thing: they were among the first local authorities in Wales to conduct a proper survey of parental demand for Welsh-medium education. In both cases the demand was many times greater than the actual provision available, yet in both cases they have not set up the additional Welsh-medium schools necessary to meet that demand.

What looked like positive action in the first instance has simply not resulted in a willingness to deliver the sort of education a growing number of parents not only want, but have the right to expect, for their children.

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4 comments:

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

You are quite right and we have been kicking up a right old fuss this morning.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

...and we have big meeting next Tuesday...watch this space!

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

UCAC up in arms and will take action unless they receive some assurances from the LEA...Good!!

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the Assembly pay for it AND reduce how much money the council get for compensation?

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