A PRIMARY school in a village at the forefront of pressures caused by rising house prices on the Welsh language, is likely to close by the end of this year. 

GwyneddCounty Council's cabinet will be asked to issue a statutory notice to shut Ysgol Abersoch, which has just 10 pupils, when it meets next week. 

The move, representing a formal notice of closure, would give the public 28 days to issue their objections amid plans to shut the school by the end of December 2021. 

The village, on the Llyn Peninsula, was once dubbed ‘Cheshire-on-Sea' by a London-based newspaper, due to its popularity with wealthy holidaymakers from the English county who have helped fuel demand for second homes in the coastal village. 

Property prices, boosted by the area’s popularity with those looking to relocate to the countryside and attractiveness as a holiday location, have made living in the village unaffordable for local people, especially those with children according to the local councillor. 

Dewi Wyn Roberts, who is opposed to the proposal to close the school, said: “The local housing problem does reflect in the school numbers. Young people and families can’t be housed in the village due to house prices.” 

The independent councillor said he, his children and grandchildren, and many friends all speak Welsh but he fears for the future of the language: “It’s one of the oldest languages in Europe, used on a day to day basis, but that tradition will change if we don’t do something about housing. 

“The only way to do it is to be brave and the council need to be brave and keep this school open.” 

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The school, which teaches through Welsh, has faced an uncertain future for some time and should it close its eight full-time and two nursery pupils would transfer to Ysgol Sarn Bach, nearly two miles away, from January 2022. 

At present children attend Ysgol Abersoch between the ages of four and seven before moving on to Ysgol Sarn Bach for the remainder of their primary education. 

Cllr Roberts said he has been working with the council’s housing department to try and boost the availability of affordable housing in the village, including the possibility of building a small housing estate. 

The councillor added that there are also plans to establish pre-school schemes, which have been shown to boost numbers at other schools.

He said the council should give the school more time to see if the initiatives and efforts to increase the availability of housing in the area will lead to an increase in the numbers on the school roll. 

The recommendation to launch the statutory notice will be debated during a meeting of Gwynedd Council’s cabinet next week after a previous statutory consultation. 

The National Wales: Ysgol AbersochYsgol Abersoch

Cllr Cemlyn Williams, Gwynedd Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “I fully appreciate that this is a difficult time and it is always sad when a consultation must be held on the future of any school.. [and] full consideration has been given to all the options

“Presenting this report is not something that we take lightly, but we have a duty to ensure that we provide the best possible education and experiences along with the best possible learning environment for our children. 

“Having evaluated all the options in detail, and given the projections that the school’s pupil numbers will remain worryingly low for the coming years, the recommendation is that Ysgol Abersoch should close at the end of 2021. 

“Naturally there has been a desire in the village to see the school continue, and every effort will be made to ensure that there will be a strong link between the Abersoch community and Ysgol Sarn Bach, where many pupils are already attending from Key Stage 2 age.” 

The process has been keenly fought by campaigners along the way, which saw the decision to launch a statutory notice being “called in” amid concerns that holding such a process during a pandemic was unfair on those opposed to its closure. 

Last November, the council's  Education and Economy Scrutiny Committee voted to send the decision back to cabinet, claiming that the ongoing pandemic would hamper efforts to hold a “fair and proper” consultation. 

But cabinet members stuck to their guns and pressed on with plans to shut the school by September 2021 after education chiefs highlighted their view that keeping the school open was not sustainable. 

The school can hold 34 but is operating at 24 per cent capacity despite the village having a full-time population of 783. Projections show that pupil numbers would grow to only 12 by 2023. 

The most recent consultation period has continued to see widespread local opposition, however, with 154 responses received.  The cabinet will discuss the report when it meets on June 15. 

Additional reporting Local Democracy Reporter Service

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