Speedier school closure decisions planned in Wales

Image caption,
Rules mean Capel Iwan in Carmarthenshire has to stay open, although it has no pupils in attendance

Plans to speed up the decision-making process on whether schools in Wales are closed have been published.

It would mean consultation between local councils and ministers being reduced to weeks rather than months.

Education Minister Leighton Andrews said he hoped the revised regulations would be in force by early next year.

Meanwhile, it has emerged that a Carmarthenshire primary with no pupils in attendance has to stay open for a year because of consultation rules.

Currently, objectors to plans for schools have two months to submit their case to the local council. Councils then have one month to submit these objections to assembly ministers.

Mr Andrews said he was consulting on reducing these times respectively to one calendar month, and two weeks.

He said: "These changes have been put forward in order to speed up the overall decision-making process, when changes to schools are proposed.

"The current system adds to uncertainty for parents and pupils. Parents and local authorities tell me that they want more certainty, at an earlier stage, in order to plan for the future of pupils.

"I believe that the timeframes for objections and the submission of objections could be reduced, saving potentially six weeks on the statutory process."

Head teacher

He said he hoped the revised regulations, which would require new legislation, will be in force by early 2011.

His announcement came after it emerged that Capel Iwan school near Newcastle Emlyn has been told it must stay open at the cost of up to £110,000 despite having no pupils.

The primary said goodbye to its last 12 children in July but education officials say the school must be ready to open in the autumn, with a fully paid head teacher.

The assembly government says the local authority must go through the correct procedures before it can be shut.

Those processes includes a lengthy statutory consultation period with people in the area, before the issue can be fully discussed by Carmarthenshire council.

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