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150 Years—and still “fit for purpose”

Saturday, 7th July will be a busy day at Ysgol Llanfair DC Church in Wales Voluntary Controlled Primary School, to quote its official name, as it celebrated providing education for younger children over the last century and a half. It is interesting to note that on the incised stone plaque on the main façade, it states “'Llanfair National School was erected in 1861 and enlarged in 1895”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the inscription in wholly in English—how things have changed since those days! They are proud now to be one of only four bi-lingual primary schools in the county. The plans are for the celebration day to open with a short service at the nearby St Mary’s Church at 1.00pm. Nearby the church may be, but the necessity of crossing the busy A525 Wrexham Road remains an unsoIved and chaIIenging situation for children, parents and teachers. Once back in the much loved and very handsome old Victorian buiIding and its spacious grounds, there will be a series of events throughout the afternoon. A marquee will be instaIIed and, weather permitting, tables and chairs on the playground will be in place for visitors to enjoy a refreshing “paned”. MeanwhiIe, on whiteboards, there will be played back recordings of stories told of memories of ex-pupils of the school. These were made recently when three former ‘Llanfairians’ returned to tell tales of their remembrances of life in school back in the late 40s and 50s. It is intended that there will be on display a specially commissioned art work created by local artist, Ann Bridges, in co-operation with the children. And there will be a ‘world premiere’ of a new
school song, music by Robat Arwyn and words by Dafydd Jones, and performed, of course, by the children of Ysgol Llanfair. The afternoon will end at about 5.00pm and it is hoped that many with connections, memories or just simple curiosity about YsgoI Llanfair will join the head, Llinos Hughes, and her teaching staff on this occasion. But the date 1861 was not the commencement of children’s education in Llanfair. Before that, children would have had to walk a couple of miles in the directions of what is now Coleg Llysfasi, to Capel y Gloch. This is the oldest rural parish school in Wales and was first built in 1691, and rebuilt in 1787 “...to teach youth and for religious services”. Education then has a long history in Llanfair, and talking to Head Teacher, Llinos Hughes, who is herself an ex-pupil, spoke of her childhood days there. It was bilingual in those days, with only three teachers and no mobile class rooms. Her older sisters had been at Ysgol Llanfair in the 50s, when the only heating was an open fire, and desks were all in rows, there was no uniform but there were regular visits from the nit-nurse! Llinos’s favourite day was Wednesday when they had Sunday lunch and in the afternoon they did sewing and knitting. But then there was usually one outing per year at the end of the summer term. I asked Llinos if the obvious difficulties of working in a learning environment designed for a very different era and situation meant that eventually, inevitably, the school would have to be completely rebuilt and possibly relocated as a result. But her answer was emphatically not. lf the model of Borthyn School, which is of the similar age and design, were followed, the learning space could be adapted to the requirements of the 21st century. Certainly the affection for the building and the warm atmosphere that encourages learning in the widest sense could be lost by such an event. Ysgol Llanfair, with its devoted teaching staff, support from Richard Carter, the vicar, and the enthusiasm of the PTA and all the parents and grandparents, through whom, incidentally, I had quite a tussle to make It to my appointment with Llinos, with such backing, the future of Ysgol Llanfair is safe for the future.
A new school building might be under construction but in June 2012, MILES ANDERSON found the current school gave its pupils an excellent start
2018 Postscipt: the new Ysgol Llanfair under construction