An estimated 200 local people attended a socially distanced public display objecting to the closure of 3 primary schools in Pontardawe. Police were in attendance but seemed happy that all safety protocols and guidelines were adhered to throughout the well organised gathering.
Chants of ‘Save Our Schools’ echoed from passionate adults and children feeling disenfranchised by the councils timing of the proposal.
One mother in attendance was Lisa Williams who said “Primary school isn’t just an education setting. It is there to develop social skills and emotional well being. We chose village schools for not only our children’s educational needs for but their social and emotional development too.”
“Village schools are close knit communities which bring people together for pride in their local areas. There are children which may need additional help with their social skills. To be in an intimate environment within their community with smaller classrooms is much more beneficial to them than being bused to a school 5 miles away with over 4 times the number of pupils.”
“Not only does this not benefit the children but it does not benefit their guardians. Without these hwbs in our villages what is left? How do people come together? To meet each other to pull together and work together to improve and enhance our community. These will become commuter villages where no one knows each other where our house may be but not our home. There is a social aspect which needs to be considered to improve not only children but our adults mental health.”
The community impact was a shared concern, Rachel Jones stated “I’m terrified of this Super School going ahead. Not only for the effect it will have on my children’s education, but on the communities as a whole. We have had no answers yet why a new school can’t be built in Godre’rgraig to save hundreds of young children travelling miles to school. The traffic in Pontardawe will never cope.”
Although the event was peaceful, there was clear anger towards the council and specifically the Labour Party. “Labour has an awful lot to answer for and I for one will be doing everything in my power to persuade others to vote against them in the next elections.”
There was also pressure on local politicians to be more vocal about their opinion on such a critical local issue. David Taylor was in attendance who said “It seems like all the local politicians are hoping to avoid the subject and just wait for it to blow over. Christina Rees is the local MP and I don’t think that she could even find her way to Pontardawe from Neath. Has anyone ever heard her say anything about Pontardawe ever?”
“Jeremy Miles has his office here but on this key issue he has remained completely silent. I can understand that the local councillors need to keep their opinions close to their chest until after the consultation but the town council? What is their opinion? Nobody knows. I have lived in a few similar sized towns and I have never known a more non-existent Town Council. The pathetic Christmas lights sums them up. This is a major decision about the Town, there is a month left of the consultation and the Town council have said absolutely nothing. They should be representing us as our closest level of democracy but instead they bicker about Christmas trees.”
Amelia, 9 said “I have gone to Llangiwg since I was 3. We have always walked to school. It makes me sad to think that they could close the school and then everyone will have to drive. I know everyone in the school, know the surnames of pretty much every child. I have a cousin who is only 3 who is in the same school, I do not like the thought of him going into a school with 700 other kids. Not knowing anyone. I think it would be scary for the younger kids.”
An independent survey on the current and existing schools can be found here https://forms.gle/WPsLPeExqEMaitfH6
The consultation can be filled in here:- https://wh.snapsurveys.com/s.asp?k=160433102429