Gwynedd Council’s cabinet has unanimously voted to shut a seven pupil school despite concerns over the impact on the Welsh language.

Ysgol Abersoch’s six full-time and one nursery aged pupil will transfer to Ysgol Sarn Bach from January 2022 as a result of this week's decision.

Previous reports had noted ten pupils registered at the Llŷn school, but councillors were told that numbers had dipped even further by the current school year.

Unusually, Ysgol Abersoch has and continues to serve pupils only up to the end of school year three, before then moving on 1.4 miles to Ysgol Sarn Bach for the remaining three years of primary education.

But officers pointed to forecasts showing no major upswing in numbers, with the future of the school described as having been “vulnerable for some time” – costing the authority £17,404 per pupil compared to the county average of £4,198.

Running at less than a quarter of its capacity, number crunchers calculated that closure would achieve annual savings of £96,062.

It was also stated that of the 26 eligible children living in the catchment area, 21 were being educated at schools other than Abersoch.

The possibility was mooted, however, of retaining the Cylch Meithrin at Abersoch even after closure of the school.

But with the village having had its own school since 1924, a community campaign saw over 200 responses to the most recent consultation as well as two separate petitions, each containing 1,115 and 1,884 signatures, against closure.

Comments were also made citing the impact of any closure on village life, which is known as a popular resort during summer months as well as being a holiday home hotspot.

One respondent described closure as having the potential to leave Abersoch as “a holiday place for tourists for a few months a year and a ghost town for the remainder.”

Cymdeithas yr Iaith, meanwhile, urged the cabinet to delay any decision until Easter after asking the authority to consider federation with nearby schools.

Cllr Cemlyn Williams, the education portfolio holder, said he had “lost sleep” over the issue but was adamant that the two year process had been a fair one.

Local councillor Dewi Wyn Roberts urged cabinet members to reconsider, noting the resulting negative impact on the Welsh language and culture.

He also pointed to the major ongoing contribution of Abersoch in stamp duty and second home premium contributions to both Welsh Government and Gwynedd Council coffers, which he described as substantially above the county average.

Reiterating previous calls to keep the school open until the end of the 2021/22 school year “at least,” Cllr Roberts concluded, “I sincerely hope that common sense prevails.”

Cllr Dafydd Meurig said he had heard nothing to persuade him that closure wasn’t the correct action to take, but also remained fearful over the Welsh language.

“To be honest I feel the damage has largely been done by years of inward migration and the use of so many second homes,” he added.

“That is true, but its also fair to say that if we lose a Welsh speaking establishment it is going to have an effect.

“So as a council I’d like to see us take responsibility and do whatever we can to keep the Cylch Meithrin and Ti a Fi operational and through the medium of Welsh.”

Cllr Dilwyn Morgan claimed that many locals in Abersoch felt “under siege” in terms of the viabilty of Welsh, also asking for resources to be made available to support them.

But Cllr Ioan Thomas said that all pupils being educated in just one classroom was “concerning”, adding that many parents in Abersoch had decided for themselves to send their children elsewhere.

Summing up, Cllr Cemlyn Williams asked members to approve the officers’ recommendation, which was unanimously backed by the cabinet.

Closure will come into effect on December 31, 2021.

Following the decision, Ffred Ffransis of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Education Group, said: “Gwynedd is undermining its own housing and language policies by abandoning the Abersoch community, and sending a clear signal to other communities under stress that the Council is not prepared to stand up for them.

“The Council’s own assessments acknowledged that closing the school would have a negative impact on the Welsh language and the community, yet they have ignored them. They have betrayed this vulnerable community and undermined their hopes of using the school as a basis for the revival of the Welsh language locally.”

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