THE future of small schools in Gwynedd hangs in the balance. As with any of these things there are lots of options on the table, but no-one seems to be talking about actually keeping small schools open.
It seems inevitable that some will close their doors to become pricey conversions for the well-to-do, no doubt prompting protests about incomers undermining the very communities that the schools used to serve.
Of course there’s a consultation exercise going on to try to find a solution, and no doubt much hand-wringing going on at meetings.
The sad thing is that small schools do a very good job. Every study you see of pupil achievement confirms that children thrive in smaller classes where they get more individual attention. No great surprise there, but they also cost more.
And as the pupil rolls fall the cost per head goes up until finally the council bean-counters can be contained no longer and the close their doors.
There is, of course, another solution to this problem, but in Wales we tip-toe round it as if it where some great taboo.
And the solution goes back to those dratted incomers buying up the converted schools. We need more people to join our communities. And a lot of those people are going to need to be English. As long as Liverpool, Manchester, London and even Cardiff continue to generate the huge number of jobs that they do, Wales will always see a net migration away of young people.
Let’s face it, what would you do? You’re straight out of school or university, you’ve got qualifications and the choice is stay in Wales where there are no jobs or what jobs there are are poorly paid, or look over the border to a big city where you can take your pick, find a house and get a start in life.
I know that educational standards are slipping but believe me, young people are not that stupid. Of course they are moving away from Wales and who can blame them for that, they have to live.
So we either fiddle while Rome burns, or should that be while Gwynedd empties, or we accept what is happening and try to find ways to remedy the situation.
One way is to recognise that after 10 or so years of living in and around cities, sometimes people tire of the crowds, crime and congestion and hanker after a simpler life. The constant talk nowadays is quality of life and work life balance.
Families would actually like to live in Wales. Some of those families are English. The big barrier to living in Wales, particularly the West of Wales has always been communications. The A55 on a Friday is a great disincentive to those who might think of commuting.
But more and more people are able to work from home now thanks to broadband computer links that make it as easy for them to be there as in an office.
Where would you rather work every day, in an office in city-centre Liverpool, or with a view of the Menai Straits. North Wales undersells itself as a place to live and work because it has become politically awkward to talk about inviting inward migration.
Instead we fiddle round the edges trying to come up with ways of tempting young people to stay, rather than accepting they are going to leave.
What we should be doing is making sure that when they want to return and start a family they are able to do so. Instead of bemoaning the fact that young people can’t afford a home in the community they were born in – which is frankly a bit unhealthy anyway – we should celebrate the fact they’re off into the wide world and welcome them when they want to come home.
Communities need new blood and it matters not a jot to me whether that’s English, Welsh or any other nationality for that matter.
Once you’ve convinced people that Wales is a good place to live, then you can concentrate on the argument about the language. Not the other way round.
At present the message being given to people who think of coming to Wales is that they’re not welcome because they are a threat to the continued existence of the language.
So you can review the future of schools all you want, but remember, a school is just a building, the important thing are the children who pass through it. Without them it may as well be a house for the well-heeled.
Until we accept that on the present model of Welsh society our traditional communities are dying, we will do nothing to halt their decline.
Unless they change they are truly doomed and more schools will close their doors.
MY poetic correspondent D Evans, the Laureate of footballing verse, has put pen to paper once more.
“From Swansea’s own DVLA,
I’ve had a letter just to say,
That drivers with a low IQ,
Are dangerous to me and you,
So, to avoid an accident,
The following was sent,
They fly a flag and so beware,
When first you see the flag take care,
Don’t lose you cool, be at a loss,
It’s a big white flag, with a big red cross.”
Spot-on once again Mr Evans. Always like a spot of the old poetry in the column. He is Pam Ayres to my, erm, Esther Rantzen. An analogy I will proceed with no further.
I’VE written here before about the irresponsibility of the chattering classes who whipped up fears about the MMR vaccine.
On the basis of no scientific evidence whatsoever they perpetuated the myth that there was a link between MMR and autism when there was none.
As a result of their selfish stupidity we now have measles outbreaks in this country where before there were none. Now it emerges there is an even greater threat resulting from the claptrap they propagate. The rumours of MMR’s link to autism have reached developing countries, as a result MMR uptake is dropping. Measles may not be the killer in the West it once was, but in the Third World it kills 1,000 children every single day.
Those who have given credence to the lie that there is a link between autism and MMR ought to think about how many of those lives would have been saved but for their superstitious nonsense.