History and Heritage

Pantteg School, Ystalyfera

Built 1864

The future of Pantteg School came up for consideration during the 1920s, when its relatively small size, and cramped location, made difficult decisions about its role in the county scheme of education necessary.

The local members of the Pontardawe recap group of School Managers met at Pantteg Council School on Wednesday to discuss the scheme submitted recently by the County Architect and the Primary Inspector with regard to school developments at Ystalyfera. It will be remembered that owing to the overcrowding at Wern Schools, the officials mentioned above recommend that the Pantteg School be converted into a Junior school and that the new Boys School be erected at Wern and that the present Boys School and Girls School at Wern be joined together to form a Girls school with facilities for advanced instruction, and work and domestic science teaching. This means roughly, that children be educated up to Standard Three only at Pantteg, the elder scholars going for advanced instruction to Wern and Godre'rgraig. This implies that no headmaster would be required at Pantteg but that a vacancy for the present headmaster be found elsewhere. We understand that the local managers were unable to agree at their meeting on Wednesday as to the best scheme but agreed to call a public meeting on Wednesday evening next at 6.30 at Pantteg School to discuss the matter. It is understood from circulars issued recently that the Board of Education are determined to provide Central Schools throughout the country on the line recommended by the county officials for Ystalyfera.

Pantteg School, Ystalyfera

From the Llais 24th January 1924:-


At a meeting of Pontardawe Group of School Managers on Monday, a letter was read from the headmaster of Pantteg Mixed Schools Ystalyfera, Mr William Evans, complaining of the handicap which the staff had to contend with on account of the condition of the school.

The building said Mr Evans, was one of the earliest type. It was put up 60 years ago, prior to the time of the School Board regime and they were deprived of the advantages of a central hall, whilst the classrooms also were too small. Some of the classes have to pass through these classrooms and this meant a continuous disturbance. It was pointed out that the matter had been before the Education Committee in 1912 and also in 1919 but nothing had been done.

County Councillor D D Davies Gwauncaegurwen said the letter was a very wise one and in his opinion the building should be blown to smithereens. He quite agreed with the contents of the letter.

Councillor John Jones Ystalyfera said the school was in a very bad condition, nothing had been done since he attended the school 40 years ago. Something should be done to improve matters. The building was very far behind the times. He knew that the headmaster and staff had only recently been highly complimented upon their work which had to be performed under great difficulties. Mr W Morgan Godre'rgraig was in full agreement with Mr Jones.

Mr D T Williams JP explained that the difficulty at Pantteg was a question of room to build a new school. If they utilised the land that was available there would be no playground.

Mr D D Davies said land had been the trouble at Ystalyfera for some time.


Mr John Jones suggested that a new school of the double-decker type should be built.

Mr D D Davies said he was surprised at the condition of the building when he visited it some time ago. It was worse than Gwauncaegurwen. He suggested that the local members should meet on the spot and ascertain whether any land was available and that any recommendations they care to make should be sent to the Education Committee. Mr John Jones seconded. Mr D W Davies Ystalyfera suggested that the architect and Inspector should also be present and this was agreed to.

The dispute carried on into the following year, and we see first the newspaper report on a public meeting at which local notables raised a series of objections to the county council's plans, and then a reader's letter to the Llais summing up the author's thoughts about what he sees as a very parochial set of objections from Pantteg residents to the reorganisation plans.

From the Labour Voice Saturday April 25th 1925:-

Pantteg Council School
Is it to be Only a Junior School?

On Wednesday evening a well-attended meeting was held at Pantteg Council School to consider the scheme submitted by the County Council officials regarding school accommodation at Ystalyfera and Godre'rgraig and with special reference to the proposal to convert the Pantteg Council Mixed and Infant Schools into a Junior School.
Mr DD Hopkin, Pantteg was elected to the chair. In order that the position with regard to Pantteg School be made clear, he called upon Councillor John Jones, as one of the local members on the Pontardawe Group of Managers to address the meeting. Mr Jones then read out the recommendations contained in the scheme prepared by the County officials viz:
1. That Pantteg Mixed and Pantteg Infants be made one Junior School for children up to Standard III
2. That a new Boys Department be built at Wern with eight classrooms plus handycraft room
3. That the present Boys and Girls Schools at Wern be remodelled to give eight classroooms, central hall, plus combined domestic centre for girls
4. That a combined handycraft and domestic subjects room be established at Godre'rgraig

Then, when plans 1,2, and 3 are completed, the bulk of the children at Pantteg in Standards 4 to 7 would proceed to Wern Boys and Wern Girls Schools, where they would enjoy advanced instruction as well as practical instruction in Handycraft and Domestic Science. A few would also go at this stage to Godre'rgraig.
The report claims that the following advantages would accrue from the scheme:
1. The necessary accommodation would be provided. (Pantteg is overcrowded at present by 27 and Wern by 117)
2. Practical instruction for both boys and girls would be made possible for the whole area
3. Advanced instruction, particularly at Wern, would be made possible and under favourable modern conditions
4. The cost of one department would be saved
5. Such a junior school, plus Boys and Girls senior schools, with advanced instruction, are in line with the most recent policy of the Board of Education
6. This scheme solves both the Pantteg and the Wern accommodation problems

Councillor John Jones proceeded to state that the local managers felt that the parents of the children most directly concerned, namely Pantteg children should have an opportunity to discuss the question before anything decisive was done in the matter; and that was the reason for holding the meeting.
A question having been asked why the matter had been raised at this particular time, Councillor Jones replied that the local managers had applied for improvements to be made to the Pantteg Schools.
Mrs Taliesin Lloyd said that she had hesitated whether to attend the meeting as she was anxious that the people living in Pantteg district should have ample opportunity to express their opinions on the scheme without any outside influence being brought to bear upon them. But in view of her position as their representative on the Education Committee for the last 3 years, she decided that it was her duty to be present. She was not there to advocate or condemn the scheme. The scheme proposed was only a part of a general programme for the gradual and systematic improvement for education facilities in the whole administrative area of Glamorgan.
In all schemes the Education Committee have the whole county in view and the present scheme for Ystalyfera was not an isolated one but had its counterpart in many other districts. The general aim might be summarised as
1. Better and healthier accommodation for all children
2. Greater educational facilities for juniors
3. Advanced and practical instruction for seniors.

If the present scheme was adopted, beside the advantages named already, the overcrowding at Wern and Pantteg would be remedied. The disadvantages of the scheme were that Pantteg seniors would have to walk through all kinds of weather from the age of 10 years either to either Wern or Godre'rgraig schools. Also, the present headmaster at Pantteg would be compelled to leave his present post for another. The advantages and disadvantages should be calmly and judiciously considered. The educational interests of the children should be the main consideration.
The subsequent discussion, rather lively and rambling in character, revealed a determined resistance to the proposal to reduce the status of the Pantteg Schools to a junior school, while the larger and more important aspects of the scheme received comparatively little attention.
County Councillor J D Brazell asked whether the local managers had expressed approval or disapproval of the scheme. It was explained that the scheme had not yet been considered by the Pontardawe Group of Managers.
Others who took part in the decision were Messrs J Gower Thomas, Phillip Williams, J Griffiths, Midland Bank, William Morgan, Godre'rgraig, Mrs Scott Jones, Messrs David Llewelyn, D Michael Rees, Rees Williams, Josiah George, Robert Williams, Councillor DJ Edmonds, David Thomas, TJ Rees, and John Davies.
Eventually the following resolution, proposed by Mr D avid Llewelyn, was passed unanimously:
"That this meeting disapproves of the scheme submitted in regard to the method of dealing with the overcrowding at Pantteg Schools, and that it be instruction to the local managers to insist that the scheme be amended so as not to reduce the status of Pantteg Schools"

The following were selected as a committee to prepare suggestions for amending the scheme in the direction mentioned: Messrs DD Hopkin, JG Jones, Carey Evans, DJ Edmonds, W Prosser Thomas, John Davies, Rees Williams, D Michael Rees, Willie Edwards, J Gower Thomas, Edgar Davies, Morgan Harries, Iowerth Jonathan, D Thomas, Mrs Scott Jones, and Mrs Edwards.
A vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the meeting.

From the Labour Voice Saturday 2nd May 1925:-

The Fate of Pantteg Council Schools

To the Editor
Sir - the report published in your last issue of the meeting held at Pantteg Council Schools to discuss the proposed conversion of the Pantteg Mixed and Infants Departments into a Junior School makes very curious reading. I followed the report rather closely to see if the meeting had really gripped the problem in all its bearings. Apart from the explanations given by the local managers at the beginning of the meeting, I cannot find that any attempt was made to treat the proposed scheme as a whole. Indeed, it is expressively stated that little or no attention was given to the more important aspects of the scheme, but that a determined resistance was revealed to any change being made in the status of the Pantteg Schools. To think that an audience of intelligent men and women could spend 2 or 3 hours at a meeting without coming into grips with the essentials of the problems before them fills one with despair. Is such a thing not evidence (I ask in no unkindly spirit) that the need for Central Schools, with advanced instruction, not only to the age of 14 but to 15 or 16, is a very urgent problem and that it should have been supplied 10,20 or 30 years ago?

As I have given a little attention to this question, will you kindly allow me, sir, to state the facts of the situation as briefly and as pointed as possible? The origin of this scheme for dealing with more accommodation and improved education in the elementary schools of Ystalyfera may be said to be threefold. In the first place, in accordance with the policy of the Board of Education, the Glamorgan Education Committee have been considering the provision of central schools in the administrative area of Glamorgan for advanced instrution and practical instruction for the senior scholars and also for domestic science. This obviously will prove a great blessing for those children - the vast majority of working class children - who do not intend going in for secondary education in intermediate schools. But it also involves, in most if not all districts, that the schools which have to be made into Central Schools, will have to be considerably enlarged - even new schools will have to be built - and the present entirely remodeled.

Secondly, it has to be pointed out that a few months ago the local managers put in a claim for increased and improved accommodation at Pantteg Schools. Thirdly HM Inspectors have been complaining and justly so, of the overcrowding at Wern Schools. Now, when the school managers ask for an improvement at Pantegg a report was asked for from the county officials. Very wisely, the latter prepared a report dealing with the needs of Ystalyfera as a whole, and not with a section. Besides, knowing the policy of the Board of Education and the Glamorgan Education Committee with regard to Central Schools, the county officials decided to solve all the problems in one comprehensive scheme. Hence the report which was so inadequately discussed at last week's meeting.

Now, it may, we hope, be taken for granted that no one, least of all working men, will oppose a movement which provides a greatly improved education for senior scholars in elementary schools. But it should be recollected that a great reform like the one now proposed may at least be delayed by narrow prejudices which blind and lead us to unintelligent opposition. The only objection offered to the present scheme, so far as I can understand, is that Pantteg children from Standard IV upwards will be required to attend Wern Schools for advanced instruction (a few will go to Godre'rgraig). What alternative is possible? It should be realised that it is not the intention of the government to make all schools of the central type. That would be impracticable on the score of economy and administrative difficulties. If that is so, which, casting all prejudices aside, should be the central school: Pantteg or Wern? Whatever our friends at Pantteg say, there is no space available there for construction a large central school. Besides, the spot is utterly unsuitable according to the enlightened ideas of our day as to school sites. The policy advocated today by all educationalists is that the best possible sites should be chosen for schools. Also the larger the school, the larger should be the playgrounds and the playing fields. Again, if it be a hardship to ask a few scores from Pantteg to travel to the Wern Schools, would it not be a greater hardship to ask more than double that number to go from Wern to Pantteg, granting that Pantteg is suitable for a central school, which it is not. On the other hand, there is sufficient space near the Wern Schools, and on an ideal site to put up a central school and at a low cost compared to the expense which would be incurred at Pantteg.

There is no real force in the complaint that Pantteg children would be asked to attend Wern Schools. What of the hundreds of slightly older children who travel every day from Clydach, Pontardawe, Gwauncaegurwen, and Brynamman to the Intermediate School at Ystalyfera?

I would respectfully submit to Pantteg residents that their case is an exceedingly weak one, and that they should not only consent but approve this scheme very heartilhy in the interests of their own children.

Yours Etc - Progress

From the Llais

The Llais newspaper had always included a round-up of happenings at schools, especially if a festivity or a performance had occurred recently.

The Labour Voice newspaper, Saturday April 17th 1926 reports on a jumble sale held at Pantteg Infants School with the aim of raising funds to buy educational materials:-

The staff of the Pantteg Infants School have decided to organise a jumble sale on Friday, April 30th, the proceeds of which will be devoted towards securing educational accessories for all the children who attend the school.

The Llais newspaper, for Saturday August 2nd 1947 records the departure from Pantteg School of some members of staff, including Mr William Evans who had been Headmaster there for 26 years:-

Three members of the staff of the Pantteg County Primary School retired on Thursday. They are Mr. William Evans, Alltygrug Road, who had been headmaster at Pantteg Schools for the last 26 years. A native of Ystalyfera, he was educated at Goldsmith's College, London, and served in the Royal Navy during the 1914-18 war. In his early days he played football for the Ystalyfera Y.F.C. and later became and active member of the Alltygrug Ward Labour Party, being secretary for some years. Other activities of Mr. Evans was his keen interest in the affairs of the Ystalyfera Town Band.
Miss Blodwen Gabe, assistant mistress at the school since 1905, completes 42 years service. An old pupil of the school, she only left it during her period of higher education, and another assistant Miss Edith Thomas, has spent 28 years at the school.

The South Wales Voice newspaper of December 26th 1952 carried a photograph of Pantteg Infants School's Christmas party:-

SCHOOL CAN BE FUN sometimes - especially at Christmas, when teachers lay on a lovely party with cakes and buns and a Christmas tree in a setting of bright lights and bunting. This picture was taken at the annual Christmas party at the Pannteg Infants' School, Ystalyfera.


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