Permission has been given by the High Court in Cardiff to proceed with a judicial review of Neath and Port Talbot Council’s decision to close three English medium schools in the Pontardawe area (Alltwen, Godre'r Graig and Llangiwg Primary Schools) and establishing one English medium school on the Ynysyderw Park site.
The judicial review application was put forward by Rhieni Dros Addysg Gymraeg (RhAG), an organisation that supports parents on their children’s journey through Welsh Medium Education.
Represented by commercial law firm, Darwin Gray, RhAG is challenging the Council's decision on three grounds:
- The decision contravenes the School Organization Code as an assessment of the impact of the proposal on the Welsh language and on Welsh-medium schools in the area was not included in the original consultation document.
- The Council provided an assessment of the impact of the proposal on the Welsh language after the statutory consultation period ended, but there was no further consultation on this assessment before the Council published the statutory notice confirming its wish to proceed with the scheme.
- The Welsh Government commissioned a further report to consider the impact of the proposal on the Welsh language in August 2021, which was after the end of the statutory consultation period, and after the end of the statutory objection period. There was no consultation on this further report before the Cabinet made its decision on 20 October 2021, which again arguably goes against the Code and case law in this area, which establishes what is required for a fair consultation and to ensure essential fairness to all parties.
Elin Maher, Acting National Director of RhAG, said:
“RhAG’s decision to a request a judicial review of the Council’s decision in this case was not taken lightly. We welcome the High Court's decision to allow us to proceed with the judicial review, and we look forward to shortly receiving the Court's final decision. The situation has caused considerable concern, for us as an organisation, and more particularly in the community in Pontardawe, especially as the Council themselves recognize that the area is one of significant linguistic importance in regard to the Welsh language.”
Siôn Fôn, solicitor and Associate with Darwin Gray LLP, who represents RHAG, said:
“We welcome the High Court's decision to allow us to proceed with this judicial review, and we believe that further interpretation of the School Organization Code will benefit Local Authorities throughout Wales. Local Authorities have a duty to ensure that strict rules around public consultations are respected and that all relevant issues are fully considered by the public as part of a fair consultation. We look forward to the final decision of the High Court regarding this specific case at the hearing on 18 and 19 July 2022.”
The judicial review hearing will be held on the 18th and 19th of July in Cardiff and RhAG will be represented at the hearing by Gwion Lewis Q.C. of Landmark Chambers, London.