Wales politics

Disproportionate number of rural schools shut, say Tories

Ysgol Mynyddcerrig
Image caption Ysgol Mynyddcerrig village school in Carmarthenshire closed in September 2007

A "disproportionate" number of Wales' rural schools have closed in the past decade, the Conservatives have claimed.

Figures show about 57% of closures since September 2006 were in the nine more rural council areas.

Conservative education spokesman Darren Millar said Labour was "letting down" rural communities with a "grim record".

Ministers said they were developing plans to ensure rural schools were not "adversely affected by an over emphasis on surplus places".

Earlier in July, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams told BBC Wales a new law to support rural education could be introduced.

An agreement between the Liberal Democrat AM and the Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones included a pledge to look at the impact of current policy on rural schools.

Image caption Darren Millar says

According to figures obtained by Mr Millar, using a written question to Ms Williams, 89 out of 157 school closures between the academic years 2006-07 and 2015-16 were in the nine predominantly-rural council areas.

Ceredigion shut 20 schools over the period, Powys 18 and Carmarthenshire 17.

Mr Millar said: "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."

Ms Williams, AM for Brecon and Radnorshire, secured a place in Mr Jones's Labour cabinet based on an agreement which included a promise to review current policy on surplus school places "with emphasis on rural schools".

Image caption Kirsty Williams joined Carwyn Jones's cabinet in May

Responding to Mr Millar's comments she said ministers were "committed to reviewing the current policy on surplus school places, with an emphasis on rural schools".

"This is an opportunity for us to look at the impact of the policy and what that means on the ground in rural areas about the future of education provision.

"We are developing proposals on how we can ensure that schools in rural Wales are not adversely affected by an over emphasis on surplus places."

There is no single definition of rural Wales, but statisticians have previously defined the nine more rural of the 22 local authorities as Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Powys, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and Monmouthshire.

STATE SCHOOL CLOSURES 2006-07 TO 2015-16

*Isle of Anglesey: 5

*Gwynedd: 8

*Conwy: 6

*Denbighshire: 2

Flintshire: 6

Wrexham: 1

*Powys: 18

*Ceredigion: 20

*Pembrokeshire: 7

*Carmarthenshire: 17

Swansea: 6

Neath Port Talbot: 8

Bridgend: 5

Vale of Glamorgan: 0

Rhondda Cynon Taff: 15

Merthyr Tydfil: 5

Caerphilly: 2

Blaenau Gwent: 5

Torfaen: 6

*Monmouthshire: 6

Newport: 4

Cardiff: 5

TOTAL: 157

(*defined as rural)

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