A letter in response to Cabinet Meeting 06 OCTOBER 2015
SCHOOL REORGANISATION PROPOSALS ARISING FROM THE 21st CENTURY
2.3 To consider whether to proceed with the closure of Victoria Primary and Abersychan Brynteg Nursery Schools at the end of the 2016/2017 academic session, and if so, approve the commencement of formal consultation.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I had the privilege of moving to Abersychan (Torfaen) 18 months ago to take up the voluntary position of Pastor at Noddfa Baptist Evangelical Church. My wife, four young children and I have been warmly welcomed into the community.
Owing to our relocation our eldest two children had to move schools, and are now in their second year(s) at Victoria Village Primary School. I am pleased to say that since their time at the school they have both grown academically as well as socially. The school provides a magnificent environment to learn and live. The teachers and staff have been wonderfully supportive during the move and my children have made many friends. I attend the school regularly to give assemblies and have welcomed invites to concerts and end of year performances as both a Father and in the guise of local Minister.
I have the utmost respect for all the staff, teachers, governors and pupils at Victoria Village Primary School. It is a school that echoes the values of our community that I am proud to serve and love as their local Minister (and now as School Governor).
With that said you can begin to understand how mortified I am about the plans to close such a pillar of our community and I wish to voice my objection.
Our church is independent and thus self funding, so my role as a Minister is voluntary. This does mean that I have to work to support my family in addition to the Ministry. My secular vocation is one of a Department Director for a business headquartered in Wales with offices in the USA, so I am not naive to book balancing and managing P&L. I have had to make many tough decisions in my career that have affected people’s lives, so my sympathies do go out to you all as you face this consultation. Yet I also understand that your roll in government is not to run a business but to serve the needs of the community. A community that will be lost if these schools are closed! We are dealing with many people’s lives here, a fact I doubt you need reminding of.
These schools are the last bastions of community in an already beleaguered district. They bring hundreds of people through our village that would suffer economically without such passing trade. Children can currently walk to school rather than commute by car, which (if the schools were to close) would no doubt add to further congestion in our already saturated road networks. The locality of the school’s allow for many parents in the area the ability to work, thus provide for their families and give back into the community. A greater commute could affect working hours and thus their income. Removing such a popular school from the area would also impact business investment; I for one would not relocate to an area that would not be able to provide suitable facilities for the families of those I would choose to hire.
As I bring this heartfelt plea to an end. I want to stress again the wider social impact that closing these most beloved institutions will cause. I want to reaffirm that to the parents, families and all those that love our community; this is not just a cost cutting exercise. Your decision is one that will define the future of our village, our county and our country. The principle of removing local amenities from Welsh towns and villages such as ours will undermine the very fabric of what makes them special places to live.
Your decision to close these schools could turn our little loving village into a barren ghost town of commuters, leaving early for the bigger cities. People will lose self worth as they daily migrate to be lost in a metropolis, and they would care little for the strangers around them when they return home.
I repeat, your decision to close these schools will turn a local, loving community into another cold and alien commuter town. I have witnessed such a transition myself. Once loved neighbours will become alien, families will grow insular and children’s freedom restricted to their garden fences, the high street desolate and a hotbed for crime. This principle of closing local amenities is disgusting and eating away at the foundation of our countries soul. Without community, you lose respect and accountability for your local environment and people.
However, what saddens me the most, is that many within our community are already disillusioned, especially those who have recently had to move their children into Victoria Village School because of previous closures. Many in our community feel that the decision is already made and that they are powerless to do anything.
What a sad state we have fallen into, if many of the people you serve feel that they do not have a voice, or do not believe it will make any difference.
I hope that we can work together to prove them wrong and begin to fight against this trend of closure in our Valley and restore our communities, starting with the end of this ridiculous notion to close Victoria Village Primary and Abersychan Brynteg Nursery Schools.
We are on our knees in prayer that it is God’s will that the school will remain open and will fight to support it.
Pastor John Funnell
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10