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Wales introduces new rules to prevent unnecessary closure of rural schools

10/07/2017 Joanna

The Welsh government has introduced a number of new regulations to ensure that rural schools are only closed as a last resort.

Changes are being made to the School Organisation Code to set out a presumption against the closure of rural schools, a list of which will be developed as part of the new proposals.

With these changes, any proposal to close a rural school must identify clear and specific reasons for closure, setting out any alternatives that have been identified and an assessment of the likely consequences.

These assessments will need to consider educational benefits of the closure, the impact on the community and the effect it will have on travelling arrangements, all with the purpose of explaining why the closure is the most appropriate course of action.

Federation will be considered as an alternative to closure in all cases, while the consideration of alternatives will be conducted as a two-stage process, with the proposer having to discuss any options that emerge during the consultation process.

Additionally, the rules will dictate that any consultations on closures should be published on a school day, with the local community actively engaged with the process, while the new-look code will also underline the fact that addressing surplus places does not necessarily mean closing schools.

Education secretary Kirsty Williams said: "If there is a consultation to close a school, all options and suggestions that emerge from this must be considered before a decision is made." This might include federation with other schools or increasing the community use of school buildings to make the school more viable.

"Rural schools are at the heart of community life. I therefore want to make sure these schools get a fair hearing when their future is being considered."

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