Ystalyfera: Landslip fears shut Godre'r Graig primary school

Godre'r Graig Primary School

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Plans were drawn up in 2017 to consider merging Godre’r Graig primary with three others to create a new super school

A school has been forced to close after concerns about the possible risk of a landslide from quarry spoil in the Swansea Valley.

A “medium” risk has been identified to Godre’r Graig Primary School near Ystalyfera, parents have been told.

Residents in nearby Pantteg moved out of their terraced homes in 2017 due to concerns over landslips.

Work to relocate to a single school site by September is under way and the summer holiday was brought forward.

Teachers at the small village school were told on Thursday afternoon and children were given letters to take home to parents.

Council leader Rob Jones said when he became aware of the risk his first thoughts were about an incident involving another school which ended in tragedy.

In 1966, the Aberfan disaster claimed 144 lives, including 116 children, when a coal tip slid down the mountainside, engulfing a school and the village.

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Residents were forced out of 11 homes in 2017 due to safety concerns

He said the hillside around Godre’r Graig was known locally as a “moving mountain” which had been an issue for more than a century.

And over the years a number of homes have had to be demolished in the Pantteg and Godre’r Graig areas.

The letter to parents said the closure decision had been taken based on concerns arising from a geological survey.

“Further investigative work is needed and, as a precautionary measure, the school will close early for summer,” it said.

“We will be keeping parents informed of developments and arrangements made to relocate all pupils and staff on to an alternative single site ready for September.”

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Copy of the letter sent to parents

In an interview with BBC Wales, Mr Jones said he convened an emergency meeting with staff on Wednesday to discuss the report and a decision was then taken to shut the school and to extend the holidays by a further week.

“All the actions we have taken in this area are in order to protect and save life and when we are talking about children in a school, even low risk to me is too high a risk,” he said.

“But I have got to stress that these are preliminary findings and even with preliminary findings, I’m not prepared to take any risk where children are concerned.

“I think anyone will draw comparisons to, shall I say, schools that have been involved in this type of disaster previously and the potential of a disaster taking place here, and that was my first thought,” he said.

During the last school inspection in 2017 there were 158 pupils, from nursery school age up to 11.

Plans were drawn up in 2017 to consider merging Godre’r Graig primary with three others to create a new super school.

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The first big landslip in years happened in Pantteg in 2012

Thousands of tonnes of rock, soil and trees slipped down the hillside near houses on Cyfyng Road, in 2012, before further landslides caused some gardens to drop away in 2017.

Residents of 11 terraced homes were then issued with a prohibition order requiring them to move.

But one man ended up in court after returning to carry out repairs to his home.

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