Presteigne and Norton Town Council met on Tuesday night in a specially convened meeting to discuss their response to Powys County Council’s consultation over the future of John Beddoes School. All council meetings are open to the public, but Mayor Beverley Baynham commented on the unusually large audience for tonight’s meeting – a measure of how seriously the people of Presteigne take the future of their local school.
The three options on the table were the two presented by Powys County Council (outright closure of John Beddoes, or its closure followed by takeover by Newtown High School) and the 3rd Option, presented by the Friends of John Beddoes, which would see the school retain its identity while it receives help to restore it to the excellent school it has been for most of its 450-year history.
Hywel Lewis (Powys County Councillor) and Steve Jones (chairman of the Board of Governors of John Beddoes) presented the case for the takeover of John Beddoes by Newtown High School. James Walbran (former head of John Beddoes) and Gareth Pugh (local resident and parent of a child attending John Beddoes) presented the case for the 3rd Option.
The 3rd Option would see the success of the current help from Newtown High School being allowed to run its planned 18-month course, after which a new leadership team would be able to take over the running of John Beddoes as a school with its own identity and Board of Governors, instead of control being passed wholesale to Newtown High School.
After listening carefully to the arguments from both sides, and asking questions of the speakers, the Town Council voted unanimously to support the Friends of John Beddoes, and to request that the cabinet of Powys County Council consider the 3rd Option.
The decision was greeted with applause from the members of the public who had come to observe proceedings. After a brief discussion of the options for the John Beddoes 6th form (the subject of another Powys County Council consultation, which had ruled out 6th form co-operation with Newtown High School on the grounds that the geography made such linkage very difficult) the Town Council voted to support the renewed presence of a 6th Form in John Beddoes School once pupil numbers made it viable.
A spokeswoman for the Friends of John Beddoes said: “We are delighted with the Town Council’s decision to back the 3rd Option. This is a real vote of confidence in the ability of the excellent teachers and students in John Beddoes School to take advantage of their chance to turn their school around, so that it can be a flagship school for Welsh education in the 21st century.”