Councils need more Government support to protect rural schools: Plaid Leadership Contender

Ynys Môn AM and candidate for the Leadership of Plaid Cymru, Rhun ap Iorwerth, has unveiled proposals to help keep schools at the heart of our communities.

Mr ap Iorwerth says he has sympathy with councils that are working to ever tighter spending limits, whilst coming under pressure from Welsh Government from a number of conflicting directions.

He said: “Welsh Government wants to give the impression that it is protecting rural schools by devising a new ‘code’ that councils will have to follow before closing schools. I welcome any genuine attempts to help smaller schools, but at the same time as this code is being developed, Government policy is urging moves towards larger schools, and crucially a code not backed by additional resource is a smokescreen.”

He added: “As First Minister I would want to support Councils in trying to find new and innovative ways of keeping schools open within their communities, and I particularly favour the creation of multi-site ‘Area Schools’, with one Head and one Governing body sharing costs and setting common goals and standards across the different sites, but crucially allowing more communities to keep their primary schools.

“This ‘new deal’ for rural school clusters won’t stop all school closures, but it will empower Councils to look for innovative answers, will help deliver standards in a small-school setting, and properly resourced will mean that rurality is embraced and not seen as a burden.”

Mr ap Iorwerth said he’s not opposed entirely to the principle of merging schools where there are no other options, and that there are instances where some schools become unsustainable educationally and financially due to low pupil numbers. However, he wants councils helped to ensure closures become a last resort.

Rural dementia care discussed at National Assembly meeting

Plaid Cymru Assembly Members met with charity Alzheimer’s Society Cymru in the National Assembly to discuss the future of dementia care in rural Wales.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Rhun ap Iorwerth said:

“At last year’s Royal Welsh Show, I helped launch the Alzheimer’s Society report on delivering dementia care in rural Wales, but very little seems to have happened since to suggest Government has taken that report’s good ideas on board. Simon and I will continue to work with the Society to ensure that the needs of rural Wales are genuinely reflected in Government policy and action. Dementia care isn’t ‘one size fits all’.”

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Plaid Cymru Mid and West AM Simon Thomas commented:

“The challenges that are experienced by those with dementia in rural parts of the country are often heightened by a fundamental lack of services designed to tackle it.

“I am grateful for the work of Alzheimer’s Society Cymru. The society’s report on Dementia in rural Wales describes the experiences from the point of view of those affected, which is of a critical importance in highlighting the pitfalls in transport, support services and general public awareness – ensuring that things cannot continue the way they are.

“I will be raising these issues with the Labour Government and relevant County Councils to echo the concerns of the Society I am particularly concerned by the lack of provision of residential nursing beds.”

Sue Phelps, Country Director for Wales added:

“Alzheimer’s Society Cymru is campaigning for a better deal for people affected by dementia living in rural areas. We are grateful to Simon Thomas AM and Rhun ap Iorwerth AM for their time in speaking with us about the issues people are facing and look forward to working together to ensure the Welsh Government’s new dementia strategy will deliver tangible improvements for people affected by dementia across rural communities in Wales.”