New rural school closure rules “too late for too many”, say Welsh Conservatives

Welsh Conservatives have welcomed guidelines to make rural school closures a last resort, but questioned again why it has taken so long.

From today (Thursday), changes to the School Organisation Code include the presumption against the closure of rural schools, and will be underpinned by 219 schools being categorised as rural.

Welsh Conservative and Shadow Education Secretary Suzy Davies AM said:

“Although rules to make closing a rural school harder are obviously welcome, the fact that it’s taken 19 years of devolution before we got to this point is astonishing.

“We've seen almost two decades of rural school closures, many if which were controversial for good reason. We saw a previous Education Minister change the system so that aggrieved families and communities have been stuck with costly judicial review as their only route to appeal.

"And now, while I am very pleased to see an actual improvement in the system, there is still the question of how the definition of "rural" was chosen: l can think of a school in my own region, earmarked for closure, which any of us would consider rural but which falls outside these guidelines.

“The reality is that this move has come too late for too many teachers, pupils, and parents. After all, three in five school closures in Wales came in rural areas between 2006 and 2016.

“Going forward, the new code must protect smaller schools, not just the Welsh Government’s preferred larger ones. Rural Wales has been let down by two decades of Welsh Labour rule – we do not need to see it let down again.”