A judge in the High Court today (30 July) concluded that Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council had failed in its duty to consider the impact of closing Ysgol Pont Sion Norton on the Welsh language.
It concluded that they had failed to consider the impact on the communities served by the school; the impact on the sustainability of Welsh-medium secondary education in the area; and how their decision would contribute to the Government and their own strategic aim to increase the use of the Welsh language and not treat the Welsh language less favourably than English.
The group challenging the council (Our Children First) included parents, young people, governors and councillors. They opposed the proposal to create two large area schools replacing two secondary schools and four primary schools. Two of the primary schools were Welsh medium, one of which was Ysgol Pont Sion Norton.
The Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts, took the decision to intervene in this case as he felt that it could have substantial effect on the future of Welsh education, and to ensure the demands of the Welsh Language Measure were understood.
The Commissioner is already conducting two investigations to consider whether Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has breached policy standards (Welsh Language Standards) by not considering the impact of these decisions on the Welsh language.
Aled Roberts, Welsh Language Commissioner, said, “I felt that it was essential for me to intervene and contribute evidence in this case as it is an important issue for the future of Welsh-medium education. This case makes it clear to councils that in all cases, pupils must be able to continue receiving education with at least equivalent standards and opportunities in their chosen language. This is not an option, but mandatory in Wales.
“It also states clearly that, with any proposals that are going to have an effect on Welsh-medium education, a thorough impact assessment must be carried out. This is not optional either.”
The Welsh Language Commissioner reports annually on the performance of public organisations’ compliance with the Welsh Language Standards, and has previously noted that the information about the process of assessing the impact of closing a school on the Welsh language is scarce.
Aled Roberts added, “We have noted more than once in the past that very little information is provided by organisations showing how they have gathered information to assess the impact of school closures on the Welsh language.
“The judge in this case also notes that the language assessment undertaken was very superficial, and that full compliance with the Welsh Language Standards would have meant that the council would be much more likely to have complied with the School Organisation Code as well.
"I am keen to see local authorities strengthen their arrangements for considering the impact of their decisions on the Welsh language and I will now write to all local authorities to draw their attention to this judgment."
Notes to the editor
• A copy of the judgement is here