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Closures blow can be softened

If ever there was a right way to shut down a school, Torfaen County Borough Council has hit upon it (see page 5). Now, it is left to other local authorities under pressure from the Assembly government to execute closures as part of school reorganisation plans to follow their lead.

There cannot be many schools regarded as highly or affectionately as Trevethin community school in tight-knit Pontypool. However, as it closes its doors for the last time this week, good will on both sides will be kept intact thanks to the input of one education consultant: Ingrid Wilson.

She used reverse psychology to full effect, ensuring the sad closure was turned around into one big party as the axe loomed large. Instead of anger and tears, she involved pupils old and new in sharing memories and collecting memorabilia. Priceless.

There can be no doubt that dramatically falling pupil rolls in Wales need solutions. Figures released by the Welsh Local Government Association just this week give new predictions that by 2013 there will be 46,000 fewer in our schools a huge shortfall by anyone's standards.

But we are, after all, all dealing with children with feelings here, not statistics. Closing schools is a highly emotive subject, guaranteed to strike the hearts of even the most level-headed parent. That is why those authorities that manage to consult openly, empathise, and do all they can to ease the heartbreak of schools where only closure is the answer, will come out winners as the school cull continues.

Those local authorities which also consider alternatives, going back to the drawing board, will be thought of more highly. It seems that no one can argue with hard facts. But as rows over school closures rage on, it appears to be the way it is done, not the deed, that will make all the difference as school closures take their toll in the coming months.

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