Church could be squeezed out of £10m Bala Super School

Reporter:

Josh Morris

A council could be set to abandon plans to include the Church in Wales in a £10 million school after officers recommended withdrawing the school’s Church status.

The new Ysgol y Berwyn in Bala, which is scheduled to open in September 2018, has been at the centre of a long running row over it’s religious status.

Gwynedd Council’s Cabinet will discuss the proposals at a meeting next Tuesday.

The 3-19 learning campus was to replace several current schools in the area, including the Church in Wales school Ysgol Beuno Sant. To continue providing Church in Wales education in the area, the entire school would have become a Church school, including the current community high school.

Councillors took the decision to consult the governors of the schools involved on the school’s status with the majority stating they were uncomfortable with the school continuing as a church school.

The chair of the current board of governors for the Ysgol y Berwyn high school wrote: “To give a religious status to the new school would require a healthy partnership to exist between Gwynedd Council, the Church and the local community.

“Unfortunately, recent correspondence from the Church has created great uncertainty that has resulted in genuine doubt about the ability of such a partnership to run the new school successfully and to be fully impartial.

“So much concern has been expressed by the existing governors of Ysgol Y Berwyn that they have made it clear they would be unable to serve on the shadow board of the new school.

“They are also concerned that opening a school with a Church status erodes the rights of the majority, as there is no alternative for secondary school pupils in the area. ”

The Diocese of St Asaph has written to Cyngor Gwynedd stating its intention to put the children and the community in Bala and Penllyn at the heart of plans for local school provision.

The Director of Education and Lifelong Learning Rosalind Williams said in her letter: “The needs of the current and future pupils at the new school are our priority.

“The Diocese of St Asaph wishes to support a way forward that protects the investment of £10 million and allows the new school to open as soon as possible so that the children of Bala, Penllyn and the wider community can benefit.”

Councillor Gareth Thomas, Gwynedd Council Cabinet Member for Education said: “Whilst there has been much discussion for a number of months regarding the exact status of the school, what is important is that the Bala area pupils will be able to benefit from a modern school with the very best facilities. Over £10 million has been allocated for this exciting development, and it is very pleasing to see that the construction work is moving along well.”

Local councillor Dilwyn Morgan, who represents Y Bala on Gwynedd Council noted: “In view of the current situation, we are grateful to the Church for respecting the opinion of local people. This will enable everyone to work together effectively in the vital work of moving the project forward to establish the school.

“It is very pleasing to see work at the site progressing so well and to realise the educational vision for the area. Children in the Berwyn catchment will greatly benefit from an innovative school not only in Gwynedd but across Wales.”

See full story in the Free Press

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