AN 'all through' school for pupils aged four to 18 is to become a Welsh medium school.

Powys council's cabinet today agreed, despite opposition, that Ysgol Bro Hyddgen, in Machynlleth, will from next September take its first steps down the path of becoming a Welsh medium school.

Councillors looked at the objections report into proposals to change Ysgol Bro Hyddgen’s language category. It is the only school in the town after its secondary and primary school were merged.

The proposal is that from September 2022, the reception class at Machynlleth’s Bro Hyddgen will be taught in Welsh, in a move which will eventually see all classes from reception to sixth form taught in the language.

The legal period to lodge objections took place from June 17 to July 15.

Powys County Councillor for Machynlleth, Cllr Mike Williams told the cabinet more than 1,219 people had signed a petition against the proposal, just over 278 signed a petition in favour, the council received over 252 other objections with four supporting the proposal.

Cllr Williams also said that Machynlleth town council had also objected to the language category change.

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Cllr Williams said: “Over 1,200 people signed a petition against the proposal, that’s 66 per cent of the adult population of the town.

“I would urge cabinet to take full cognizance of the volume of objectors and those for, as it’s crucial that the views of the Machynlleth townspeople are taken on board.”

“This is a very big issue for the town and the Dyfi Valley.”

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan who represents nearby Glantwymyn and is chairman of the school governors said parents of the youngest childrenare already chosing the Welsh medium stream, with a tiny number of the new intake being educated in English.

He also addressed the cabinet and said: “Whenever any changes are proposed it is inevitable that some are opposed to such changes, fear of the unknown is understandable.

“Bilingualism is the norm in the world – monolingualism is not – and that is what an English stream is – fluency in one language.

“Bilingualism provides the basis to learn other languages and become truly multilingual – a important asset for the future.”

“Only three pupils have started in the English stream this September – that is totally unsustainable and not fair on them.”

He added that he will “extend” the hand of friendship and would be available to “discuss, advise, encourage and assist wherever possible.”

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Education portfolio holder, Cllr Phyl Davies told cabinet that he’d been to Machynlleth to receive a petition and understood: “it’s very difficult locally.”

Cllr Davies said: “The issue is that there aren’t the numbers in that (English) stream.”

He added that the cabinet had to be “consistent” in its approach to school reorganisation and that all the objections had been responded to in the officers report.

Finance portfolio holder, Cllr Aled Davies said “It’s a positive move and the more opportunities for our children to be truly bilingual so much the better.

“This will be phased in over a number of years.

“It will be almost the end of the decade before it impacts the secondary phase.”

Cllr Davies pointed out that feeder primary schools for Bro Hyddgen: Glantwymyn, Carno, Llanbrynmair and also Pennal and Corris in Gwynedd where some pupils come from, are all “Welsh medium schools.”

“I wish I had an education through the medium of Welsh, my skills would be far better if that had happened,” said Cllr Davies.

He added that he was sure the cabinet were on the “right path” by supporting the changes.

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Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the proposal.

Powys doesn't currently have a Welsh medium secondary school and Machynlleth and the surrounding areas in the north west of the county are considered to be among its Welsh language heartlands.

The original consultation on the proposal took place from December 8, 2020, to January 26.

Of the respondents, just over 61 per-cent were in favour, while 37.5 per cent were against the proposal and 1.5 per cent didn’t know.

Figures from 2020 show that out of a total of 477 pupils at Bro Hyddgen, 332 are educated in Welsh and 145 in English.

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