School with seven students in neighborhood ravaged by second homes closes for the last time
A primary school in Pen Llŷn will close its doors for good on Wednesday.
Ysgol Abersoch in the village of Abersoch has been a refuge for students aged three to eight for almost a century.
However, after 97 years, the school had to say goodbye to its seven students following a Gwynedd council vote to move forward with its closure.
The school’s future was unsustainable due to funding and a shortage of students, largely due “to years of immigration and the use of so many second homes,” the council said.
It was announced that the school would be closed by the end of the term.
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Ysgol Abersoch principal Linda Jones said she felt emotional on the last day of school, which she described as “difficult”.
“It is hard to believe that this is actually happening and that there will be no more children here after today,” she told WalesOnline.
Linda has been the principal of the school for almost five years. Having been a student at Ysgol Abersoch herself, she said that becoming the principal of the school was a “dream come true”.
“I have so many fond memories of coming here as a student,” she explained.
“Drinking milk from glass bottles, painting on Friday afternoons, playing outside in the field – there were two tree trunks and there was a hole in one and you could fit through. 30 students at the time.
“My dream has always been to become a manager. I taught at nearby Ysgol Chwilog for almost 25 years when a temporary job as principal of this school arose. principal of this school.
“I felt like I was living the dream and being able to come back to Abersoch was the icing on the cake.”
The small wooden school, located in the heart of the village, was three years away from celebrating its 100th anniversary.
In September of this year, the council’s decision to close the Welsh language school was reviewed by a key council committee. Concerns were expressed by the local community, who had been campaigning to keep it open, alongside language activists fearing its impact on Welsh culture in the popular seaside village.
The school educates children until the end of the third school year, before moving to Ysgol Sarn Bach, located 2.2 km away.
Decision markers pointed out that no major increase in pupil numbers meant the future of the school had been ‘vulnerable for some time’, costing the authority £ 17,404 per pupil compared to the average County from £ 4,198.
In early December, the school’s principals decided to resign en masse after refusing to allow staff layoffs, calling it a “last insult” to a council that had fiercely opposed the school’s closure.
Governing Chairman Margot Jones called the school’s closure “heartbreaking.”
“I see enormous value in a small village school, especially in a community like Abersoch,” she explained.
“It’s a wonderful advertisement and an ambassador of the Welsh language. What remains of the community after this could only serve tourists and we have fought so hard against that for so long.
“All of our suggestions and ideas for developing the school were ignored. This school was there to educate people who have a sense of belonging to the area and who cannot be replicated.
“The council has turned its back on us.
“I am absolutely devastated and I can’t believe this is happening. It is definitely not in the best interests of the children and I feel like it was all for naught – our voices have gone. been ignored. “
Parent Awen Jones, whose three sons went to school, agrees.
“I am disappointed because I feel like we are the only people who have tried to keep this school open and the Welsh language alive,” she said.
“I felt really lonely sometimes and it’s so sad to come to this.
“As parents we have a good community here – we all get along and depend on each other to support us. My four year old son Bobby has been crying all day – he doesn’t understand why school closed.
“It’s up to us now to keep this community alive.”
On December 17, Ysgol Abersoch organized an open day to mark the last days of school. Former students and parents were invited to share their memories of the place.
For Linda Jones, the closure will have a profound effect not only on those with a connection to the school, but on the community as a whole.
She said: “We have a tight-knit family community here at school. Everyone knows each other, it’s like a big extended family and the children almost become like your own children.
“I can’t even imagine what this closure will mean for the rest of the community, especially the Welsh language. We campaigned so much for the Welsh language because there is a lot of English here. a precious gem for the Welsh Language.
“The community I grew up in was very different from the community we have today, but the school was where the root of the language remained. We have families here of Russian, Iraqi descent. and Czech – they can also speak different languages besides Welsh and English.
“The school motto is ‘Hwylio i’r Dyfodol’, which means ‘sail into the future’ – there is a bittersweet irony with what is happening today. I hope people don’t ‘will never forget the deep roots of this school in the community, further It is woven into the good memories we have, the language we speak and the lessons we have learned.
“Wherever these kids are in the future, I hope they take it all with them, as I did too.”
Gwynedd Council has said considering the future of any school in the county is a “difficult decision.”
A spokesperson said: “The Council, as an education authority, has a duty to ensure that we provide the best education and experiences possible as well as the best learning environment for all children in the county. .
“A number of meetings have been held with representatives from Ysgol Abersoch in order to address a range of concerns regarding the school and possible options for future education in the region.
“The review of Ysgol Abersoch’s situation was not part of a broader strategy for education in the region, but rather a response to a particular concern about the challenges facing the school, particularly the weak number of students, projections, high percentage of excess places, small class size and large age range within classes.
“Following statutory consultation and careful consideration of all comments presented, it was decided to close Ysgol Abersoch on December 31 and offer places to students at Ysgol Sarn Bach.”
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