Children’s farewell to island school

Children on a Welsh island will now have to have their lessons on the mainland as falling population numbers have forced their tiny school to close.

The four children from the primary school on Caldey Island, off the Pembrokeshire coast, will have their final lessons on Thursday afternoon as they prepare to start school on the mainland next term.

Three of the four were planning to move, and council officials decided a school with one pupil was not viable.

The pupils are children of locals who work for 15 Cistercian monks at the monastery which has made Caldey a tourist attraction. The island is a 30-minute boat ride from the beach resort of Tenby.

Throughout its history, the school, which has one classroom, has frequently shut when numbers dwindled. The island has a population of just 55 and, at its peak, the school had 11 pupils.

The current school was opened 18 years ago when the former Dyfed County Council decided there were enough children on the island to make it viable. A wooden tearoom for tourists was converted into the classroom.

‘Sad day’

Islanders have planned a reunion for past pupils for the weekend after the closure.

Headteacher Frances Allen, aged 36, said: “It is a very sad day for the island.

“There has been a school on Caldey for more than 100 years and it has many memories for people who were educated here.

“There will be a few tears shed when the bell goes for the last time.”

Mrs Allen’s own children Kirsten, 11, and Thomas, 10, are two of the last pupils and the family has decided to move to the mainland for them to complete their education.

Farewell to island

Victoria Purchase, 11, and Jonathan Miller, 8, will be staying in Tenby during the week, returning to the island at weekends if the weather allows.

The pupils have spent the summer on a project recording the school’s history.

The school’s founder, Father Stephen, said: “It has been a wonderful school over the years and has given the island’s children a good grounding.”

The islanders have yet to decide what to do with the school building.

Caldey’s economy relies on summer tourists visiting the Cistercian monastery where the monks make chocolate and perfume.

A spokesman for Pembrokeshire County Council said: “It’s a sad day but with just one pupil the school could not carry on.”