LAST Wednesday was a landmark day for Blaenavon. I remember visits to the town’s old primary schools well.
Enthusiastic pupils and dedicated teachers were both let down by buildings that were, at best, outdated.
But with the official opening of the town’s fantastic new school, Blaenavon’s youngsters now have the facilities they deserve.
The journey that ended on Wednesday was a long and sometimes troubled one. On top of the quest for the considerable funds needed for such a project was the controversy surrounding the closure of the town’s swimming pool.
Credit, though, needs to go to those who were determined Blaenavon should have the best possible school, as well as an attached health and leisure facility that can be used by the whole community.
So I pay tribute to those who made it happen. To the council, led by Bob Wellington. To local AM Lynne Neagle, who shouted from the rooftops about the desperate need for a new school building in the town. To the ministers in the Assembly who bought into the project.
It was especially pleasing that one of those ministers joined Lynne, Bob and myself in Blaenavon for the opening – education minister Leighton Andrews.
Together, we toured the school and were vastly impressed by the quality of the building and its facilities.
Pupils have the indoor and outdoor space needed to explore, play and learn. Some of the hi-tech facilities open whole new possibilities for teachers looking to develop children’s understanding and build the skills they need nowadays.
Leighton has been in the news for other reasons in the past week, and I congratulated him on the stance he has taken on English GCSEs. He is quite right to demand fairness for Welsh students disadvantaged when the goalposts were moved before they took their exams.
If Michael Gove thinks that creates an unfair divide with the situation in England, he should look in the mirror for a solution rather than lashing out at Leighton for doing the right thing by the young people he represents.
Aside from political controversies though, it’s great to see a town like Blaenavon getting the best in educational facilities.
We all know about Blaenavon’s great heritage, and more and more people are visiting it to experience the attractions that brings, alongside the town’s beauty, sitting at the gateway to the Brecon Beacons national park beyond. But Blaenavon's young people need us also to focus on its future. Life at the heads of our valleys can sometimes be tough, but I’m proud that at a time of cuts and ‘austerity’, at least our council and our Welsh Government are prepared to invest in the future of a Valleys community.