LEADERS at Swansea Council have decided to close two primary schools, insisting they did so reluctantly.
Parents and politicians representing Craigcefnparc Primary School and YGG Felindre made last-ditch attempts to earn the schools a reprieve at a cabinet meeting.
But cabinet approved two officer recommendations to issue statutory notices to close the schools next August.
They also approved plans to build two new Welsh language schools in Clase and Penlan.
Addressing the meeting, Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi said the village of Craigcefnparc was “on the verge of having its heart ripped out”.
She urged cabinet to give the school more time to make improvements and increase pupil numbers, asked about the training and support given to staff, and called for an associate of “super” head teacher to be assigned to the school.
“It is, I believe, within the gift of this authority to make this work,” said the Labour MP.
Councillor Jennifer Raynor, cabinet member for education improvement, learning and skills, said Craigcefnparc primary had falling pupil numbers and had been offered four years of “intensive support” to make improvements.
The school is in a provisional amber category under a Welsh Government categorisation, meaning in need of improvement — a decline from the current yellow category.
Cllr Raynor said the school budget — set by the governing body — did not enable staff to be taken away from their teaching duties for training.
Pupils, she said, would have better education options if they moved to Clydach primary — a move that will now happen next academic year.
Cllr Raynor stressed that Craigcefnparc primary would continue to receive support.
“We are all extremely sad at the situation we find ourselves in now,” she said.
“Looking at school closures, changes to catchment areas, is always a very emotional event.
“The school has been given additional support — more than £100,000 — in order to improve its education offer.
“But it is clear that when the top two classes leave, there are no feed-in numbers.”
This was challenged by one parent, who insisted that “pupil numbers are not indicative of what might happen in the future”.
The primary has 49 pupils. Several parents in the area send their children to faith or English language schools, as is their right.
Cllr Raynor and cabinet member for environment and infrastructure management, councillor Mark Thomas, said they wanted to reassure parents that suitable transport arrangements would be made for pupils transferring to Clydach primary.
Conservative councillor Brigitte Rowlands, in whose Mawr ward both Craigcefnparc primary and YGG Felindre are located, asked cabinet if the views of people who wanted to keep Craigcefnparc primary open had been considered.
She said that inspection body Estyn had seen improvements at the school, and asked, if the closure option was approved: “Will cabinet also reduce council tax for the residents of Mawr?”
Swansea Conservative leader, councillor Lyndon Jones, said “big is not always better” when it came to schools.
“Craigcefnparc primary has been in difficult times, but it is starting to thrive,” he said.
Councillor Louise Gibbard, a member of a scrutiny group which has assessed a recent consultation process, said substantial improvements had not been made at Craigcefnparc primary.
“In both cases we do reluctantly accept the proposals to cabinet,” she said.
“We agree that appropriate processes have been followed.”
A grandmother of two pupils at YGG Felindre, meanwhile, said the “sword of Damacles” was hanging over the rural primary school.
“What parent is going to put their child’s name down when you don’t know whether the school is going to remain open?” she said.
The only thing on pupils’ Christmas wish list this year, she said, was for the school to remain open.
“Hopefully you will play Santa and reconsider closure,” she said.
YGG Felindre only has 14 pupils, four of whom are from the catchment area, and Cllr Raynor described numbers as being “in a long-term decline”.
Cabinet members asked a number of questions of Cllr Raynor before she moved the officer closure recommendations for both schools, and the creation of a new YGG Tan-y-lan at Beacons View Road, Clase, and a new YGG Tirdeunaw on surplus land at YGG Bryn Tawe, Penlan.
The closures would take effect from August 31 next year, but would need to be confirmed at a cabinet meeting in March once any objections to the staturory notice had been considered.
Walking out of the meeting, one angry parent said: “You have just ruined our children’s Christmas — thank you very much.”
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Rowlands said she and campaigners would seek legal advice about what to do next.
“We are not going to accept this decision,” she said.