Unique Welsh school faces axe

30th June 2000 at 01:00
Sudden cash crisis means end is nigh after 40 years. Esther Leach reports

THE only Welsh school in England could face closure.

Ysgol Gymraeg Llundain, an independent school with 16 full-time and 16 part-time pupils and two teachers, has been told to leave its premises, a former chapel in north-west London, where it has been for 40 years.

"The chapel has been sold but we thought we still had the use of the building under the new owners. Now they have changed their minds," said Brigadier Rolph James, chairman of the school's trustees.

"We have three weeks to find an alternative building and the money to pay for it. I am hopeful we will find something but it also means we will have to find a great deal of money.

"We have been fortunate in that we paid only a peppercorn rent for the use of the chapel but now we are looking at something like pound;150,000 for new premises and running costs."

The school has survived so far on contributions from pupils' families.

There are no set fees but some pay pound;500 a term and the school also receive money from grants and fundraising. But the school fears it will not be able to find the money it needs now in such a short time.

Trustees have appealed in vain for help from the Welsh Assembly, the Department for Education and Employment and local education authorities.

"If it comes to the worst we will hold the school in the front room of someone's house," said Sue Harston, whose three children are pupils. "Parents send their children a great distance to this school because it is the only one outside Wales which teaches in Welsh. We don't want to lose it.

"It means so much to us that our children do not lose the Welsh

language and that they grow up bilingual."

Headteacher Sian Edwards said she was encouraged by the parents' optimism but she did not know what would happen next.

Education minister Estelle Morris said different avenues were being explored, including making the school a special case, but she was not optimistic the department could offer any help.

Next week's TES will include a 16-page Welsh section

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