BUILTH Wells High School will be solely responsible for Welsh-medium secondary education in Brecknockshire from this September.
Powys County Council’s cabinet voted to close the Welsh stream at Brecon High School at the end of the current school year, meaning pupils will face a 40-mile round trip each day to access Welsh education.
At last week’s meeting, cabinet members heard from Portfolio Holder for Education, Cllr Arwel Jones, who recommended the closure of Brecon’s Welsh stream, which currently has 19 pupils.
This followed a consultation which ran from November to January, after plans to close and merge Brecon and Gwernyfed High Schools were shelved in September.
Despite objections from parents and a 236-signature petition, cabinet members opted to approve Cllr Jones’ proposal, which estimates an annual saving of £58,475.
This also went against a vote from the full council the previous week, which saw 32 councillors vote against the proposals with just eight in favour.
The decision has been slammed by the council’s Welsh Liberal Democrats, who have branded it a “missed opportunity” to revive Welsh education in the area.
Group leader Cllr James Gibson-Watt said: “Over the past three years the council has conducted two previous botched consultations on the future of the Welsh stream at Brecon High School and provided free transport to take pupils from the Brecon area to the Welsh medium provision at Builth Wells High School, 20 miles away.
“In addition, for the past 20 years the local authority has failed miserably to invest in the school’s buildings and infrastructure.
“It is now in a very poor state and is it any wonder that pupil numbers in both the Welsh and English-medium streams have fallen?”
“Instead of threatening to close the Welsh stream, Powys County Council should have demonstrated its commitment to Welsh medium education in south Powys by investing in the school’s facilities.
“With over 170 pupils attending Ysgol y Bannau, situated directly opposite Brecon High School, and Sennybridge CP School nine miles away, if the high school had been properly supported pupil numbers in the Welsh stream would surely have been sustained.
“With the promised re-building of the high school over the next couple of years the council had a golden opportunity to revive Welsh medium provision in Brecon, as well as giving all of the young people in the Brecon area the high school facilities they deserve.
“That opportunity has been tragically missed.”
See full story in the County Times