The WLGA has long been concerned that pupils and students in Wales should receive the very best education possible in their local environment. It established a task and finish group to consider the future of education in small schools - in rural, urban and valley areas - which published its findings in September 2001.
'We welcome the importance which the minister for education obviously attaches to the issue of education in small schools. Local authorities have long argued that money is not the primary consideration when considering the future of small schools. Our only concern is that schools must be able to provide a fully-rounded educational experience for pupils'.
The minister's report, presented to the national assembly's education and lifelong learning committee yesterday comments that:
'The prime responsibility for deciding the future of rural schools and small schools, also the overall distribution of school provision and the mix of denominational and Welsh medium schools, must remain with the local education authorities. They are best placed to weigh up the relevant considerations and decide when a school needs to stay open and whether it needs additional support in order to do so, and when the best educational interests of local children would be served by some form of reorganisation or a school closure'.
Cllr Jones agreed, noting that:
'I am particularly pleased to note the minister's support for the concept of the responsibility of the local authority to provide education opportunities in response to local need. Local authorities have long argued that money is not the primary consideration when considering the future of small schools. Our only concern is that schools must be able to provide a fully-rounded educational experience for pupils. We are not in the business of removing funding from education - we want to ensure that funding is spent effectively for the benefit of the pupil.
'The clear guidance which today's announcement gives is that the minister and the WLGA task and finish group are of the same mind. We particularly welcome the fact that the work of the association's task and finish group has been noted in the preparation of the paper the minister has released for discussion by the education and lifelong learning committee today, and that national assembly officials will work with WLGA officials to draft further guidance for local authorities. We are encouraged that this is a further sign of the transparency and openness to new ideas which the creation of the national assembly has made possible'.
* The WLGA small schools task and finish group paper - The Future of Education in Small Schools in Wales - is available here.
* The national assembly paper can be viewed here.