‘Save Our School’ campaign launched for Ysgol Heol Goffa

PARENTS, teachers and councillors have launched a campaign to save a Llanelli school for pupils with additional learning needs, which has been rated excellent, from potential closure.

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Ysgol Heol Goffa pupils are at risk of being split up into mainstream schools in Carmarthenshire following a county council announcement that plans for a new, state-of-the-art school promised seven years ago, have been axed.
The controversial decision has aroused a storm of anger, resulting in more than 3,500 people and rising signing protest petitions demanding the Plaid Cymru-led council keep to their vow.

Llanelli Town councillor Andrew Bragoli, who represents Lliedi ward, where the current school is sited, said: ‘People are furious.

“Plaid have dumped on the most disadvantaged and vulnerable pupils with this shocking decision that threatens the very existence of Ysgol Heol Goffa.

‘The current school, which was built with capacity for 75 pupils, now has 124, and is in a very poor state of repair.

‘The county council had earmarked millions of pounds for the new school, recognising that much improved facilities were required for the children.

‘It identified a site near Ysgol Penrhos, and the Welsh Assembly Government has agreed to meet 75 per cent of the total cost of the new school.

‘That money is still there. So the decision to axe the planned new school came as a complete shock and body blow to the parents, teachers and governors of Ysgol Heol Goffa.”

Furious parents protested at County Hall in May over the decision to pull the plug on the new school, and county cabinet member for education, councillor Glynog Davies’ comments that the authority had ‘committed to exploring the delivery of alternative facilities on different sites,’ has fuelled fears that Ysgol Heol Goffa could be split up.

Assistant branch secretary of the National Education Union, which represents the majority of teachers in Carmarthenshire, Kate Kames, said: ‘It would be catastrophic for children if the school was split into units attached to mainstream schools.

‘We think it is a dreadful idea. There would be health and safety concerns for the pupils in terms of specialty, results and outcomes for their pupils would suffer, and teachers at Ysgol Heol Goffa may lose their jobs under that scenario.

‘Therefore, we would fight any campaign to shut Ysgol Heol Goffa tooth and nail.’

An action committee has been set up to fight for a new school.

Rebecca Davies, of Llanelli, is vice-chair of the action committee.

‘If they think we are going to take this broken promise, and the threat to our school lying down, they have picked a fight with the wrong people.

‘We will do whatever it takes to force a change of heart and get justice for our children,’ she said.

In May, the cabinet minister for education in Carmarthenshire issued the following statement aimed at reassuring the Heol Goffa community over the uncertainty surrounding the next steps for the ALN school in Llanelli:

“Following concerns locally, it is essential to provide clarity as to the County Council’s intentions about the future of Heol Goffa School and the provision of ALN education in Llanelli.

“While the Cabinet has decided not to proceed with the planned scheme at the Heol Goffa site due to soaring construction costs outside its control, it has committed to exploring the delivery of alternative facilities on different sites.

“We believe that it will be possible to deliver new facilities through an alternative scheme.

“As a Council we are absolutely committed to providing the very best facilities for ALN pupils in Llanelli, as we do across the rest of Carmarthenshire.

“This will be an opportunity to further develop our fully inclusive education system, in line with our inclusion principles and Welsh Government’s Additional Learning Needs Transformation programme.

“Discussions around the future provision of ALN education in Llanelli are ongoing and we are hopeful of making an announcement on our alternative proposals over the next few weeks.”

Rebecca Davies wrote about the importance of ALN services for her own children and accused the council of discrimination against disabled individuals:

My daughter Millie has been diagnosed with Autism, Global Developmental Delay, and Severe Learning Difficulties. Despite these challenges, Millie is a sweet little girl with a wonderful personality.

However, her behavior can be very challenging. One of the biggest difficulties we face as her parents is that Millie only requires approximately three hours of sleep each night. When she is awake, she has no sense of danger, which recently led to my decision to conclude my ten-year teaching career.

Millie is currently awaiting a place at Ysgol Heol Goffa, and I could not be more delighted. Ysgol Heol Goffa is an incredible school with phenomenal staff. The progress children make under their care is outstanding, and the school has been repeatedly recognized as outstanding during inspections.

Even though the building is not fit for purpose and is practically falling apart, the school continues to excel. Although the school has a capacity for 75 children, it currently accommodates 124 students. This high demand underscores the importance and need for such a phenomenal institution in our community for children with additional learning needs and why CCC need to continue to invest in it.

Millie should now be in school, but unfortunately, there is no space available for her at this time. She is currently eighth on the waiting list for Ysgol Heol Goffa, and I am unsure when she will be able to start. In my opinion, the Carmarthenshire County Council has shown a total lack of respect, care, and compassion.

This is particularly evident in their recent decision to halt the development of a new building for Ysgol Heol Goffa, which has been long awaited and is desperately needed. It is imperative that the Council reconsiders and reverses this decision, providing Heol Goffa with the new facility it not only deserves but urgently requires.

No other mainstream school would be treated so appallingly. In my opinion, Carmarthenshire County Council is discriminating against disabled individuals, as they are perceived as vulnerable and costly to support due to their disabilities.

Campaigners have launched a petition on change.org to demand the Council to uphold their promising of building a new special school for Heol Goffa:

https://www.change.org/p/demand-carmarthenshire-county-council-to-uphold-their-promise-of-building-a-new-specialist-school

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