The Welsh Government has announced details of its £2.5million fund to support small and rural schools.
The rural schools grant is a policy taken out of the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto, being implemented by Welsh Liberal Democrat Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams.
Powys has received the third largest amount of money of any local authority, a total of £252,000. Local authorities have been applying for the funding after Kirsty Williams announced the support package in November 2016.
The money will support greater school to school working between 20 of Powys’ schools, making better use of resources and increasing opportunities to focus on leadership and management. It will also enhance ICT and resources to support distance learning and governance for 5 High Schools and 2 Primary Schools. The funding will also develop the outdoor areas at 3 Primary Schools and will enable schools within a school cluster to develop reading and writing skills.
This money is part of a wider programme of support for rural schools, with changes to the School Organisation Code underway. The Welsh Government is consulting on changes to introduce a presumption against closure of rural schools, and for the first time there will be a designation of rural schools. A 14 week consultation ended in September and responses are currently being analysed.
Kirsty Williams, Cabinet Secretary for Education, commented:
“Small and rural schools play an important role in our national mission to raise standards and extend opportunities for all our young people.
“We are taking action and providing new funding to help small and rural schools deal with the unique challenges they face, such as small pupil numbers and issues in recruiting head teachers and staff.
“This financial support will benefit pupils, teachers, and the wider community. I want to see rural schools working more formally together and across the country, forming federations and looking into the possibility of sharing buildings with other services to ensure school buildings remain viable.”
Cllr James Gibson Watt, Leader of the Powys Liberal Democrats, said:
“This is extremely welcome news straight out of the Welsh Liberal Democrat manifesto. The Welsh Government needed a different approach to education and the Welsh Liberal Democrats are providing that. It is what happens with a rural voice at the Cabinet table.
“It will also help prevent more closures of rural schools which are so vital to so many communities.”