In the case of Llangennech, the blog will publish some more material dealing with the lessons learned in the hope that this may be of use to other communities and researchers.
Today Cneifiwr publishes Cllr Gwyn Hopkins' response to some of the comments on this blog, along with a copy of a letter he wrote to the Llanelli Star.
Some readers will also have seen Cllr Hopkins' letter in the latest edition of Golwg which puts Llangennech in the wider context of primary school provision in the Llanelli area. Freedom of choice has been one of the main arguments deployed by objectors, but in his letter Cllr Hopkins asks how much freedom of choice there is for parents wanting truly bilingual (i.e. Welsh-medium) education for their children in Llanelli and Llangennech.
The following map starkly illustrates how little Welsh medium primary education is available in the area.
The enthusiasm and determination of the parents stood in stark contrast to the negative tone we have heard from some in Llangennech and elsewhere.
Cllr Hopkins will be standing down as county councillor for Llangennech in May after many years of service to the village. It is a great pity that the row, which has at times been intensely personal, should have clouded his final couple of years in office, but he can retire in the knowledge that he did the right thing, and future generations will owe him a debt of gratitude for the stand he has taken.
With apologies for the slightly strange mix of fonts and background colours which the software has applied, here first is Cllr Hopkins' response to comments on this blog:
Although – in retrospect - I agree that more should have been done to communicate and explain the County Council’s proposals with parents, this task was surely the responsibility of those making the decisions during 2014. Here are the facts relating to the decisions made:
· During the period May 2012 – May 2015 Carmarthenshire County Council was ruled by a Labour-led Independent/Labour Coalition. Kevin Madge (Labour) was Leader of the Council.
· During this period the Council’s ten – member Executive Board (Cabinet) was Labour-led. It had 5 Independent and 5 Labour members with Labour’s Kevin Madge as Chairman (who had a casting vote, if necessary). There were no Plaid Cymru Councillors in the Cabinet.
· Also, during this period the Cabinet member for education was Labour Cllr. Keith Davies (who died in August 2015).
· The Welsh Labour Government’s Standards & Organisation Wales Act (enacted on 4/3/2013) instructed Local Education Authorities to prepare a Welsh in Education Strategic Policy (WESP) to expand Welsh medium education by creating more Welsh medium schools. This statutory policy was duly prepared and contained the directive “to convert 3 dual stream schools into Welsh medium schools by 2016”.
· The WESP was approved unanimously by the Cabinet (not the Council) on 28/7/2014. The choice of schools was – almost certainly – recommended by Cllr Keith Davies but was undoubtedly endorsed by the Cabinet. The County has only 12 dual stream schools in the age range 4 – 11 to choose from, in any event.
Thus, subject to final endorsement by the County Council on 18/1/2017, the decisions relating to creating a Welsh medium primary school in Llangennech were recommended by the Labour Cabinet member for education and made by the Labour-led Cabinet – not by Llangennech’s two Plaid Cymru County Councillors who played no real part in the decision making process until 18 January. The Cabinet, and Keith Davies in particular, should then have made arrangements for Cabinet members (Keith himself included), to meet with parents to explain the rationale of the decisions that they themselves had made (with appropriate LEA officers in support).
The allegation the Cllr Gwyn Hopkins refused to meet with parents is untrue. He was never contacted by any parents to meet them about this issue. Moreover, it is up to the individuals responsible for making policy decisions to explain and justify them, not people who played no part in the process.
The County Council received over 1400 submissions supporting and opposing the County Council’s proposals. There were 720 submissions against – 18 e-mails and 702 in the form of prompted, pro-forma letters (not much more elaborate than a petition). The objectors organized a door knocking campaign to “persuade” inhabitants to oppose the proposals (not infrequently “helping” them to complete the forms) both within and outside Llangennech ward. Even the door of Robert Sully, the former County Council Director of Education, was knocked and he lives in Llys y Pinwydd in Pemberton ward. There were also reports that they were knocking doors in Llanelli, 3 miles from the ward. As far as being a valid, scientific and reliable statistical exercise this falls down heavily at the very first validity hurdle because the individuals collecting the data were very far indeed from being unbiased on the issue. As such, the operation was a complete farce, totally unreliable and, therefore, impossible to take seriously.
On the contrary, there were 698 submissions in favour – 119 e-mails and 579 letters. The supporters did not organize a door knocking campaign to obtain any of these and very few of the letters were in the form of a template. The vast majority are submissions written by individuals independently although, admittedly (as was the case with the objecting submissions), some are from individuals not living in Llangennech ward. There is no doubt whatever that these are of much more value than the 720 proformas.
Set out below is a copy of Cllr Hopkins' recent letter to the Editor of the Llanelli Star:
Nigel Hughes accuses me of “spewing fake news” (letters 24 February). Any alleged “fake news” that I have ever articulated pales into total insignificance compared to his outrageously absurd lie about me, with respect to the proposals to merge Llangennech Junior and Infants schools. He writes: “proposals which he (that’s me) had devised”. A solicitor relative of mine is of the view that this claim is so mendacious that I would be justified in suing its author. I am considering it. In any event, I challenge Mr Hughes to produce a shred of evidence to substantiate this incredibly stupid and ridiculous assertion. Indeed, it puts even Donald Trump’s “post truths” and “alternative truths” completely in the shade.
However, I have to say that if I had in fact devised the Welsh Labour Government and Labour-led County Council policy of expanding Welsh medium education that occurred during 2013 – 15, I would be absolutely delighted to admit it. In fact I would not stop boasting about it. Alas, as a backbench member of the Council’s opposition group, it was not to be!
As someone who has taught Statistics to degree level for a number of years, I assess Mr Hughes’ method of deducing that 95% of the people of Llangennech are against the County Council’s proposals as absolutely ludicrous. His pathetic process would fail the most elementary of statistical validity, objectivity, scientific, reliability and legitimacy tests.
On January 18th the County Council voted 38 – 20 in favour of establishing a Welsh medium primary school in Llangennech as from 1 September 2017. That would be described as a comfortable victory if it was the final score of a rugby match. The issue is, therefore, over and done with - bar the shouting. However, Mr Hughes and other protesters are intent on doing a lot of pointless shouting. Moving on to consider other important matters would seem to be much more sensible and likely to be a lot more productive.