CAMPAIGNERS have slammed a council's decision to close their village school as 'shameful'.

There were shouts of 'whitewash' and 'shame on all of you' from the public gallery as Wrexham Council's executive board unanimously approved plans to close Ysgol Pontfadog in the Ceiriog Valley at a meeting on Tuesday.

Their decision came despite more than 1,300 objections being submitted by members of the local community, who said proposals to close the English-medium school were fundamentally flawed.

The Leader:

Campaigners against proposals to close Ysgol Pontfadog. Picture: Liam Randall / Local Democracy Reporter

The authority agreed plans to send pupils to the dual-language Ysgol Cynddelw two miles away from September 2019 as it said the primary school was no longer sustainable with only 18 pupils and a low demand for English speaking places in the area.

However, after the meeting at Wrexham's Guildhall, campaigners furiously denied those claims and wore 'English Nots' in protest, similar to those used in the 18th and 19th centuries to punish children using the Welsh language.

Jools Payne, a former governor at the school, said: "They listened to not a single word that called them to account for the fundamentally flawed process from beginning to end.

"This was always going to be on their agenda. The product of the consultation is supposed to be given due consideration, well they didn't do that.

"The views of 1,300 people who intelligently articulated their objections to these proposals were utterly dismissed. It's truly a disgrace and a really tragic day for democracy in Wrexham."

In introducing the proposals Cllr Phil Wynn, lead member for education, told the meeting he understood the strength of feeling in the community, but after reading the objections he still felt closing the school was the best way forward.

He denied claims by campaigners and some councillors that the consultation process had been carried out incorrectly and outlined savings of £98,000 which would be achieved as a result of the closure.

He said: "Consideration of proposals to close a school is not easy and it’s understandable that there are objections.

"I’ve personally read all of the objections received and I’m confident the proposal is suitable to sustain Welsh and English medium education for pupils in the Ceiriog Valley."

Addressing concerns about the capacity at Ysgol Cynddelw, council officers said the school could accommodate up to 126 pupils and if every child from Ysgol Pontfadog was to transfer there pupil numbers would only total 92.

However, Labour member Cllr Malcolm King said the meeting made him feel 'ashamed to be a councillor' after deputy council leader Hugh Jones refused to allow members of the community to ask follow up questions.

He also accused the executive board of predetermining their decision by holding a private meeting beforehand to discuss their voting intentions.

He said: "On the face of it this whole process is just about a little school in a little village having to face reality of a school whose numbers have shrunk to a point where it’s financially unviable but actually it is far, far more important than that.

"Just for the avoidance of doubt I presume you’ve had a pre-meeting and agreed what way to support this.

"First of all I’m concerned that as many objectors have said the consultation has been flawed and certain information not published.

"I’m concerned as other members have said that this opens the authority up to future action.

"I do believe there is great wrong that is being done here and I believe that manipulating democratic debate has great dangers for all of us."

Cllr Jones replied by that council officers had monitored the whole process and were satisfied that it was carried out legally.

He also accused Cllr King of failing to read the report containing the proposals, but was later forced to apologise.

He said: "In terms of the procedure of the council, you were a member of the executive board previously.

"Nothing has changed – we operate in exactly the same way as you did so you need to park that and focus on the objection report.

"As you will know we have our senior legal officer present at this executive board and if we were to operate in a way that was unconstitutional or even illegal then they would advise us."

Meanwhile, Ceiriog Valley councillor Trevor Bates made an impassioned plea for the school to remain open as he claimed its closure would damage the community.

He said: "94 per cent of people who communicated said they want to keep it open and from the objection report we have one letter in support and 1,300 against. That seems pretty conclusive to me.

"Councillors are already aware of the impact of bank closures on rural communities. Close the school and you effectively close the village.

"This school has been part of Pontfadog’s culture for 110 years. Please do not close this historic school."

But despite his comments, eight members of the board voted in favour of closing the school with two absent from the meeting.