Concerned Parents Call In Lawyers To Help Save Welsh Village Schools

Council Plans To Close Sites ‘Could Rip Heart Out Of Communities’

15.07.2015

Specialist lawyers are launching legal action in the High Court against Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council to challenge the closure of two village schools, on behalf of concerned parents who believe the decision was made unlawfully and the move will disrupt their children’s education and “rip the heart out” of the local communities.

A High Court hearing will begin in Cardiff tomorrow (July 16th).

Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team is asking for a Judicial Review to be held of the council’s decision to close Clun Primary School and Pontrhydyfen Primary School, which was made following a consultation to restructure education services.

The legal experts are requesting permission for a review of the consultation, arguing that the local authority failed to properly assess the impact of the decision – including not taking the costs of closure into account.

According to the concerned parents represented by Irwin Mitchell, closing the schools could significantly impact on the progress their children have made in recent years and also adversely affect others in the communities which use the facilities.

Alastair Wallace, the legal expert in Irwin Mitchell’s Public Law team who is representing parents affected by the decision, said: “Clun Primary School and Pontrhydyfen Primary School are much more than just schools to residents in their respective villages. They are the focal point of community activity and their loss would be extremely damaging to all local people.

“We have heard first-hand the concerns of parents regarding how they feel the closure decision will affect the flourishing social skills and education of pupils, uprooting them from a familiar, local school and also creating other more logistical problems including transport worries.

“In both cases, Irwin Mitchell is challenging the decision on several grounds, including that the council failed to comply with regulations by not providing full information regarding the total financial cost of the closures in consultation documents.”

Among the law firm’s clients in this case is Mandy Wiggins, whose six-year-old daughter Tia attends Clun Primary School.

She said: “Closing the school would have a huge impact on Tia and I. The school has been a hugely stabilising factor in Tia’s life and she has flourished so much in recent years. I am now really concerned about how moving from a local school to a larger school, outside of the village, at this stage of her life will affect her both socially and educationally.

“The school is also a key part of the village and hosts a range of key services, such as mother and toddler groups which bring people together. The closure of the school would not only impact on the education of pupils but rip the heart out of the local community.

“This is why we would urge the council to listen to our concerns and ensure they recognise the hugely important impact that this closure could go on to have for everyone in the area.”

Under the terms of the plan, pupils from Clun and Pontrhydyfen would be transferred to larger schools from the start of the next term. However, families and their legal team believe the better approach would be to federate the schools with their larger counterpart, a move which would ensure the locally sited schools continue to serve their communities.

Alastair Wallace of Irwin Mitchell added: “Very serious concerns have been raised and we believe there were flaws in the decision-making process which require urgent review.

“We are determined to ensure that the local communities get their voices heard on this matter and that steps can be taken to develop a more favourable approach which will ensure that the local school sites remain open.”