The best performing school in Wales is in a poor physical state, with pupils having to walk under scaffolding to avoid falling debris, a council committee heard.

The April 17 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Schools and Learning Overview and Scrutiny Committee heard that concerns had been raised at the state of buildings at Crymych’s Ysgol Bro Preseli following a recent visit by the Schools Scrutiny Panel.

All-age Welsh medium school Ysgol Bro Preseli, formed following the merger of Ysgol y Frenni and Ysgol y Preseli, was last year named the top performing school in Wales in the ‘Parent Power, The Sunday Times Schools Guide for 2022’.

A report for committee members said the panel – while praising the standards of education – raised serious concerns about the structure of buildings on-site after the visit.

“Very concerned to observe the poor structural state of the secondary school building, the scaffolding which had been in place in excess of five years was to protect falling debris from the brickwork which was blowing in a range of areas.

“Significant concerns were raised following observation of the ‘tower’ which raised a range of accessibility and fire safety concerns, and it was clear that the state of the buildings were having a negative impact on recruitment of pupils to the school, in particular the sixth form.

“It was noted that remedial works were planned as part of the Authority’s capital programme, although no firm timescale or details of work could be provided.”

Speaking to committee members, Ysgol Bro Preseli Senior Prefect Fflur James said she and fellow pupils owed “a debt of gratitude” to the high teaching standards at the school, but added: “Nevertheless, the resources are not adequate, it would be hard to believe that this is the best school in the country.

"This is the way the county treats us, even bearing in mind our success.

“Nothing has been done, the building has limited our experiences of the school; the scaffolding has been there since the beginning of our time at the school.”

Fflur described scenes where virtually all windows in the school common room had to be “screwed shut,” pupils having to walk under scaffolding, and the condition of the building preventing pupils with disabilities from enrolling.

“Why are we the ones that have to learn in such conditions, and why are we missing out on the opportunities that other schools have?

“We are punished for this, dismissed because the school is so successful; this is how little the county council respects the best school in Wales; we as pupils must share this with you.”

Tivyside Advertiser: Ysgol Bro Preseli, CrymychYsgol Bro Preseli, Crymych (Image: Google Street View)

Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language Guy Woodham said it was hoped funds from the successor to the 21st Century Schools programme, Sustainable Communities for Learning, would eventually lead to the site being redeveloped, but warned it was not a short-term option.

He said a number of other schools in the county were in desperate need of repair.

Members later heard that 20 of the county’s 60 schools were in a poor condition.

“If I was able to, I would knock down that tower and put in new classrooms; I know I just can’t do that, but we can consider other options; I will try and make that happen as quickly as I can.

“We are probably looking at managing the situation for a good few years, at least.”

He told members that even just making the tower safe and removing the scaffolding was likely to cost millions, with pressures on budgets from other schools needing work.

Members agreed to recommendations of the report, which included acknowledging the concerns raised and to support, where appropriate, plans for remedial works to be undertaken, in line with the Authority’s capital programme.