The threatened school closure in Kettlewell
, North Yorkshire, is contrary to so many aspects of Government policy, it is ridiculous that closure should even be suggested by NYCC
1.The current Government Education White paper makes great noises about the need to increase attainment. The evidence shows that smaller schools consistently out-perform larger schools in terms of results. The Commission for the Countryside reported in 2005 using DfES figures that schools with 100 or less on roll, including very small schools, did better than larger schools. So why does it make sense to shut down small schools, from an attainment point of view? Surely it is the value for money we should be looking at, not the absolute spend.
2. Planning research has shown that costed against the tax-paying base, major local authority services like education cost least in the smallest communities and most in the largest, as the school is often the only return for village tax-payers on money otherwise spent largely in the towns.
3.This Government aims to be the greenest ever. But in a climate of ever-increasing fuel costs and climate change, the extra bill parents may face on car journeys—especially when after-school activities are considered—and the increase in carbon footprint of extra journeys, cannot be consistent with stated Government aims.
4.David Cameron is fond of his ‘Big Society’ idea, but how does losing arguably the single greatest community asset in a rural area chime with the greater community participation that his cherished ‘Big Society’ envisages? Talk about the ‘waste’ created by the last Government abounds. But what about leaving a public investment to waste in a small community upon which the community has an absolute dependence? Does that present value for taxpayer money?
Of course this policy, if it goes ahead, could be incredibly short-sighted, given the increase in primary school places that is anticipated demographically across the whole country by 2015. What happens when we haven’t actually got enough school places to meet demand?
No one is denying that savings have to be made at local and national levels. But closing small rural schools will surely only prove to be a zero-sum game, with rural communities losing out massively.