Pupils Megan and Eva campaigning to stop the closure of Pontrhydyfen Primary School

Disappointed Pontrhydyfen campaigners “disillusioned” with system

7 August 2015

Campaigners say they are disappointed and disillusioned in the system after their hopes of stopping the closure of Pontrhydyfen Primary School were dashed.

The campaigners had initially been hopeful of success following a judicial review in July which had seemed to “appear would go our way”. But last week High Court judge Mr Justice Gilbart ruled Neath Port Talbot Council’s decision-making process had been lawful and dismissed the appeal.

Neath Port Talbot council proposed the closure of the school along with primary schools in Bryn and Tonmawr, arguing the closures will help with financial management, educational standards and accessibility of schools.

Pontrhydyfen campaigners triggered the judicial review after calling in specialist lawyers and the High Court in Cardiff heard the case on 16 July.

Most pupils will now be moved to Cwmavon Primary School.

Campaigner and parent Malcolm Bell, who headed the petition to prevent the closure, said: “We are disappointed because we always thought we had a good chance of success, and really we are disillusioned in the whole system. The Council’s consultation didn’t seem to have answered any of the questions put forward by the schools, and in court our barrister had a number of points highlighted and it was made clear to the opposition that they would have to make a very robust counter argument to persuade him.”

But he added, “It didn’t matter in the end. Decisions about school closures should be made on educational merit alone and not on finances, but even the judge mentioned the limited resources of the council in his decision. It seems the big banks are still wrecking the lives of us lot at the bottom.”

Part of the ruling is that the campaigners will not be permitted to appeal the decision, and Malcolm Bell confirmed the campaign is now over.

“The decision has been made and we are not allowed to appeal, so it’s the end of our campaign. We are worried that it will affect the village and reduce the amount of community spirit here. I met a lot of people through the school or just being at the school gates. We worry families won’t want to come and live here now there’s no school.”

Bryn and Tonmawr schools will also be closed.

The Magnet contacted the Council for a comment, but have not received a response.

(Additional research by Rachel Howells)

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