New figures have revealed that in the past decade there have been 95 rural school closures in Wales.
A Written Assembly Question (WAQ) submitted by the Welsh Conservatives to the Welsh Government’s Cabinet Secretary of Education showed that since 2006 there have been 157 school closures across Wales, 60% of them in rural Wales.
The areas worst affected by closures are Ceredigion (20 closures) and Powys (18 closures), followed by Gwynedd (8 closures) and Conwy (6 closures).
The disproportionate rate at which schools in Wales’ countryside are being shut down underscores that the Welsh Government is failing to protect the interests of rural communities.
Currently the Welsh Labour-led Government does not have a definition for ‘rural schools’ – this despite the needs of rural schools being unique to those of urban areas.
Rural schools are at the heart of community life, often providing the only public building for miles around, and the threat of closure still hangs over a number of rural schools across Wales.
School closures are extremely detrimental to community cohesion and often lead to increased travel times for pupils. The average public travel time for Welsh children attending secondary school is now 35 minutes.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Education and Children, Darren Millar AM said:
“Welsh Labour have been letting down rural communities for far too long and their grim record is crystal clear when it comes to school closures.
“It is a scandal that your school is more likely to close if you live in a rural community than if you live in an urban one.
"It's vital that rural Wales gets a better deal from the Welsh Labour-led Government in the future and that alternatives to closure, such as schools working together to share staff and resources, are given the chance to work before closure is considered.
"School closures are sucking the lifeblood out of rural Wales; they undermine communities and damage local economies. We need a better deal for rural Wales to prevent unnecessary closures in the future.”
Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies AM, added:
“Parents should be given more choice about where to educate their children - not less.
“No rural school delivering the national curriculum should close, without the agreement of parents and governors.
"Rural local authorities have been short changed by Welsh Labour for too long, it's time they got a fair deal."