philip stephen rowlands


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Bitten by the 'Sound Bite'.

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By: philip stephen rowlands
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In the context
of journalism , a sound bite is characterized by ashort phrase or sentence that captures the essence of what the speaker wastrying to say, and is used to summarize information and entice the reader or
viewer. . .

Due to its brevity,the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and canbe misleading or inaccurate. The insertion of sound bites into news broadcastsor documentaries is open to manipulation , leading to conflict over journalistic ethics . Wikpedia.

For those of us involved in the fight to save PentrePrimary School from closure
Wikpedias definition of sound bite has a haunting resonance.

From the outset we wanted our campaign to focus on the factthat should the proposals be ratified our children would inevitably be placedat risk given the distance they would have to travel to their new school alonga heavily congested route. The imminent development of a Tesco store and
filling station adjacent to the route further heightened our concerns.

Another concern was that in times of economic hardship manyparents from within one of the most deprived communities in Waleswould be faced with an additional financial burden many simply cannot affordChild poverty is something RCT have pledged to address through the Children and Young Peoples Plan 2011 14 .
How could a Labour led council possibly endorse a proposal that wouldexacerbate the problem in one of their most needy communities?

Rhondda AM, Leighton Andrews, sharedour concerns but it became immediately apparent that his political opponents weremore intent on shifting the focus and hence the term surplus places was
repeated loudly and often at every given opportunity. Surplus Places becamethe perceived rallying cry, a trigger phrase that could induce paroxysms offrenzy among political opponents and those who oppose the Surplus PlacesPolicy. Battle lines were drawnand our school became part of the collateral damage that ensued.

School closures areinevitably emotive and sensitive issues no matter what the reason or prevailing
policy. It was not surprising that many people were angered by what they saw asMr Andrews trying to have his cake and eat it. However if his support for ourcampaign contravened ministerial guidelines it is a matter of grave concern forus all. In his capacity as AM he listened to our concerns but his subsequentactions were undertaken to ensure the LEAwas following the procedure laid down in The School Organisation Proposals 2009 the Surplus Places policy. In effect he was ensuring his own policyguidelines were given due and proper regard. There was no conflict of interestapparent or otherwise.

That did not stop the hue and cry of surplus places aspoliticians and the media smelt blood and set off in pursuit of Mr Andrews.Misinformation regarding the school was broadcast nationally in an effort to embarrassthe Minister for Education regardless of the damage inflicted on the community
of Pentre. In his article, Did LeanneSpook Leighton?( ), John Osmond is at a loss to understand how a trivial issue was sufficient to
occasion the first such resignation in the history of Welsh democraticdevolution.

Since when has the safety and welfare of children been atrivial issue?

Parents the length and breadth of the country will beoutraged by a comment that sadly appears to reflect the opinion of the majorityof political commentators in Wales.Does the National assembly exist to represent and promote the welfare of the peopleof Wales or has it become some kind of Mount Olympus where the elected godsof the Senedd conduct their Machiavellian business aloof from the day to dayconcerns of ordinary citizens and voters?

At least the AM and MP for Rhonddahad the courage to show they shared the concerns of their constituents. Apparentlythe parents and supporters of Gaer schools in Newportwere far less successful when they sought the support of their electedrepresentatives.

Rosemary Butler and PaulFlynn both declined to even look at let alone scrutinise this
proposal. It is not in the best interests of the community and makeslittle educational sense. Yet neither of our senior elected representativesknow this as they preferred not to hear about the proposal.
( )

Unbelievable! Who are these people elected to represent? Iunderstand that in some cases school closure is in the best interests ofchildren but each case should be judged on its own merit in accordance withministerial guidelines. The minimum we should expect is to be heard.

.. . my personalview is that Councils in some cases have used the vague cover of surplus as a
kind of catch-all, get-out-of-jail-free card to push through otherproposals they want to see happen, especially when they do not have the moneyto accomplish them in other ways.
( )

This week the Rhondda Leader featured a letter from a Mr AndrewNutt who obviously felt qualified to offer his considered opinion despite thefact he resides in Bargoed and has no knowledge of the local issues surroundingthe proposed closure. The sound bite has obviously worked its magic in his

The BBC took a similartack when they misreported the numbers on roll in our school to the nation,
seriously compromising our campaign in the process. Why let accurate reportingstand in the way of a good sound bite?

Here are some alternative sound bites the Pentre ActionGroup would like the Senedd and our local cabinet to consider. How about,





for starters?

We can only hope that our locally elected representativesare strong enough to ignore the surplus places sound bite and focus on thereal issues confronting Pentre school and the wider community. When the cabinetmeet to make a final decision on the future of the school later this month they
will have had time to reflect on the objections raised by the community.

Parents deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing oftheir children. Parents worried sick that they will not be able to afford thebus fare required to transport their children to school. Families facing
increased financial pressure and over reliance on elderly relatives if they areto hold down their jobs and ensure children get to school safely.

The Director of Education for Rhondda Cynon Taff stated inhis response to concerns raised by parents that children would miss out on thefree breakfasts available at Pentre school by stating:

Treorchy Primary School has a well attendedbreakfast club, which will continue for the benefit of all pupils who mayattend that school.

The Director obviously does not inhabit the same world. Doeshe not realise children living in Pentre will have to get up very early to beable to access it and either walk or catch a bus in the dark during the wintermonths when arguably this provision is of maximum benefit. Is this acceptable?

These are the issues that are struggling to be heard above thesound bite surplus places. Wikpedias definition that, Due to its brevity, the sound bite often overshadows the broader context in which it was spoken, and canbe misleading or inaccurate. is certainly true in the case of PentrePrimary School.

The question is, will our trvial issues be heard above theubiquitous SURPLUS PLACES sound bite?

Is it a case of, If you tolerate this then your childrencould be next?