Special Celebratory service of ‘Cwmdu Church in Wales School’ marks the end of an era

The celebratory service of the school’s ‘life’ was held at St Michael’s Church in Cwmdu on Friday, March 30, followed by music and a buffet in the nearby village hall, as the local community bid farewell to its school.  Those in attendance included former and current pupils, teachers, and many residents.

During its lifetime the small village school has won many accolades and awards – not to mention outstanding Inspector’s reports.  Its excellent
schooling facilities were rewarded in 2003, when it became the only Welsh
finalist of the four UK schools listed for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU)
prestigious ‘Village School of the Year’ competition – where it was eventually awarded runner-up.    This success was closely followed by an official visit from Prince Charles in 2006.

Cwmdu Church in Wales School had been earmarked to close this summer following a review by Powys County Council, but governors, staff and parents felt it would be in the best interests of the 139 year-old school building to close at Easter and give the 16 remaining pupils chance to adapt to school life elsewhere in the region.

Mrs Pat Wormleighton, who had been head at the school for 17 years, said although she was sad the school was closing, staff had tried to remain upbeat during the last week.

“The school and governors decided it would be better for the children to close at Easter rather than the summer and have a nice final term. Everyone has stayed here and we’ve had a positive term.”

Cwmdu local resident, Member for Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority and Powys County Council representative for Bwlch, Cllr Kathryn Silk said: “Whilst tinged with sadness at the closure of the school, the service in Cwmdu Church on Friday afternoon and the party in the village hall in the evening were joyful celebrations of the enormous contribution the school has made to the lives of generations of children and to the life of the community over the last 139 years.

“It was wonderful to see so many people in the village sharing their memories of the school and being joined by former pupils of all ages, staff and parents from far and wide.  Very many thanks to the school’s staff, parents and friends who made last Friday such a memorable occasion.”

Among those to attend last Friday’s event was Bannau Brycheiniog National Park Authority Assistant Area (East) Warden Howard Morgan, who has visited the school for many years to help inspire pupils about the National Park they live in.

Howard had worked with the children to clear scrubland into a usable nature area and garden, constructed and erected bird boxes to encourage wildlife to visit the school grounds, made a willow hut and plant trees. Education Officers from the Authority had also frequently attended the school down the years and engaged with the children.

Speaking of the school’s closure, Howard said: “It’s a great pity because it’s such a unique little school.  Working here and bringing nature and the work of the National Park Authority into the classroom was very enjoyable and the kids were very good. I would often come here after work and help with activities with the kids in the evening, they were always very appreciative.”

Mrs Wormleighton added of the National Park Authority’s work at the school: “The wardens and education officers have done a lot of work at the school with the willow hut, planting trees and building bird boxes. The children have really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. It’s been a very positive link and it’s opened the children’s eyes to a lot of different things.”