Petition calls for council to turn its back on church in £10m Bala super school row

Reporter:

Josh Morris

A petition calling on a council to turn its back on the Church in Wales in a row over a new £10m super school for Bala has gathered hundreds of signatures.

It comes after the Diocese of St Asaph's solicitor sent a letter to Gwynedd Council over the school, which the council’s member for education described as “threatening”.

So far, more than 250 people have signed the e-petition with a seperate phyisical petition also making the rounds.

The petition reads: “Following the recent dispute between Gwynedd Council and the Diocese of St Asaph concerning certain legal aspects of the arrangement to establish a life-long-learning Anglican faith school in Bala, this petition calls on the council to end its partnership with the Church and to re-launch the project, granting ‘community’, non-denominational status to the new school.”

County councillor for Bala Dilwyn Morgan said: “I think this is the way to go. The Church has reignited the issue locally with this threatening legal letter to the council and really we can't afford to have it all going on.

“At the end of the day it's the education for the children that's important and the designation won't improve the education itself, it'll only to improve the Church's standing, I can't see any reason why the Church will need to be involved.”

A statement from the Diocese of St Asaph read: “We are aware of the presence of a petition and are concerned that any change to the designation of the school under a different statutory process could jeopardise the whole project. 

“It is crucial that a shadow governing body is established as quickly as possible to enable teachers to be appointed in time for the new school’s opening.”

Work began on the £10 million modern 3-19 learning campus on the site of Ysgol Y Berwyn last year. The new campus was aimed at replacing the town’s high school Ysgol y Berwyn as well as two primary schools – Ysgol Bro Tegid and Ysgol Beuno Sant, a Church in Wales school.

At the end of 2016 Gwynedd County Council received a letter from solicitors representing the Diocese of St Asaph, putting Ysgol Beuno Sant’s inclusion in the project in doubt. The letter argues that the Church should be promoting the new Ysgol y Berwyn in Bala and it would have a "Church in Wales religious character", which the council disagrees with.

The letter also argues that nearby Ysgol Beuno Sant, which is being closed down, should be sold before it is removed in order to get round the long-standing covenant on the site, which would return it to the historic estate owners if it isn't being used for education

Member for education, Cllr Gareth Thomas told a meeting of the authority's cabinet: “They didn't seem to be happy about it, but they didn't discuss it specifically and the next thing we had was a letter from their solicitor, and I can only describe it as a threatening letter to be honest.”

See full story in the Free Press

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