A WELSH government minister paid a surprise visit to a Powys school – after being challenged by a head teacher to see what life in a rural primary was really like.

Head-teacher of Abermule School, Jayne Harrison invited Cabinet Secretary for Education Kirsty Williams to come and see for herself the challenges facing the school and other rural primaries, and was delighted when she accepted during a Liberal Democrat meeting earlier this year.

“We were really pleased to welcome Kirsty to our school and it shows her commitment to the future of rural schools,” she said.

“It was a great chance for her to see how we work and the kinds of issues we face here. I think she’s really trying to understand issues facing rural schools and I hope we created a positive impact on her during her visit.

“We were so pleased to show off the school, and we’re very proud of the opportunities we provide.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats leader was given a tour of the classrooms and participated in a question and answer session with pupils from the school’s student council during her visit, which lasted around an hour.

Earlier this year the Welsh Government announced a £2.5m ‘rural and small schools grant’ aimed at encouraging closer working arrangements between smaller schools and boosting the use of technology.

Schools in rural areas are also set to get more protection from closure under new rules published by the education secretary, making it more difficult for local councils to close or merge smaller schools as a cost-saving measure.

Speaking when the measures were announced earlier this year, Ms Williams said: “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.

“These plans will play a key part in our national mission to raise standards and offer opportunities to all our young people.”

The measures form part of recent changes to the Schools Organisation Code, and mean authorities will now have to assess other factors before closing any school, such as the impact on the children’s education, the wider community, and have to prove that closure is a genuine measure of last resort.