A village school struggling to survive has launched a campaign to secure its future by attracting students from neighboring communities.
Parents at Ysgol Llannefydd, near Denbigh, say it’s a ‘brilliant’ Welsh language school that provides an excellent all-round education that prepares their children well for the rest of their lives.
There is no imminent threat of closure, but the school would be in a “precarious” position if there were a further drop in student numbers, according to Governor Glesni Owen.
The number of pupils has fallen to 11 and an automatic consultation process on its future will be triggered if the number of children drops below 10.
With few local children expected to reach school age in the next few years, parents and governors joined forces to recruit young people from neighboring communities.
Governor Glesni Owen added: “Governors and the Conwy Local Education Authority are committed to ensuring the school remains open and remains viable for future generations of learners.
“However, if we see a further reduction in the current workforce, the school will be in an extremely precarious position.
“As a wider community, we must act now not only to ensure a safer future for our school, but for all other community activities in which the school plays a fundamental role and to ensure a future for them as well. “
St Asaph and Bodelwyddan are particular targets as, unlike Llannefydd, they do not have primary schools which can provide Welsh as a first language education.
Among the advantages of Ysgol Llannefydd is the high level of individual attention given to children with a student-teacher ratio similar to that found in private schools.
Between them, the 11 students benefit from having three teachers including principal Gari Evans, a classroom assistant, a cook and a caretaker.
High school teacher Katie Farah, who is currently on maternity leave, lives in St Asaph and brings her four-year-old son, Abyan, to the school which she describes as “fantastic”.
Although she doesn’t speak Welsh, she was keen for Abyan to have a Welsh education and her little brother, one-year-old Ashkir, will follow in her footsteps when he is of school age.
Katie said: ‘We value the school as there is a deep understanding of each child and they value each child which has been especially important during the pandemic as Abyan feels safe going to school.
“We don’t speak Welsh at home, so one of the benefits is that he learns Welsh and gets a bilingual education. It’s just priceless.
“Students receive a full and comprehensive education, and the environment is one of the best.
“I encourage all parents to come and see Ysgol Llannefydd.
“I think if they had the opportunity to connect with the staff here, whether online or physically, they would see the gentle care that is so evident as soon as you walk into the school.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by childcare provider Kate Wright whose three children, Megan, 10, Elwen, eight, and Edryd, five, are all dating Ysgol Llannefydd.
Kate said: “It’s a fantastic school in a beautiful setting and we’re really lucky to have it on our doorstep.
“The fact that it was a Welsh language school was really important to us because I had learned Welsh at school, but as a second language.
“Although I now work through Welsh, it took me a long time to gain that confidence.
“My children are perfectly bilingual, they can just switch between the two languages and that happened in the first two years of school.
“The advantage of them coming to a small school is that they are really a small family, so the older ones help the younger ones and it’s just a really lovely environment.
“You see them playing outside of school and they take care of each other, and I think that’s an important quality to have wherever you go.
“They also have a really strong education in all subjects and because it’s a smaller school they get more individual attention. It’s definitely a bonus. These are the private education ratios.
“It would be really good to attract new families because it is really important to ensure the future of this school because it is a vital asset for the community.
“There is a strong sense of community here and it would be very sad to see the school closed and lost forever.”
Principal Gari Evans, the son of a farmer from the nearby village of Bylchau, was appointed in 2015 and describes the school as an “extended family”.
He said: “The quality level of education and the varied experiences given to children lead to high levels of schooling.
“Everyone is cooperating wonderfully and we have no behavior problems.
“One of the advantages of the education provided by a small village school like Ysgol Llannefydd is that it almost resembles a private education. The staff to student ratio is fantastic but clearly there are no fees.
“The first-class teaching standard combined with the headcount ratio means that the individual needs of each learner are met.
“Also, the amenities are excellent here and the information technology is on a one-to-one basis – everyone has facilities for e-learning.
“On top of that, the scenic location is idyllic and there’s plenty of space for outdoor activities.
“Unfortunately, no new houses are being built here, so we need to attract more students from outside the village itself.
“We have not reached the point where the county or the Welsh government are considering closing the school, but we must ensure that we prepare for the future and also try to attract more pupils from outside the region.
“Bodelwyddan and St. Asaph are not too far away, about six kilometers away, so our school is perfectly accessible.
“We believe Ysgol Llannefydd offers something unique and special and I would be more than happy to speak to any future parents and tell them about all we have to offer.”
Any parents wishing to find out more about Ysgol Llannefydd should contact Principal Gari Evans by calling the school on 01745 540228 or emailing [email protected]
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