The death of the small village primary school in England

Ian Taylor's picture
The death of the small village primary school?

Even in the city, the image of the idyllic village complete with pub, post office, and primary school, evokes strong feelings. More so in the villages themselves. Could this romantic vision be gone forever?

We have all seen the problems caused when villages lose their post office and attached shop. Up until now the primary school has been reasonably safe. This is changing. And this change is inevitable and was foreseeable.

Mr Gove’s plan to turn all schools into independent state funded Academies is gathering momentum fast. When the number of schools left working within the Local Authority (LA) structure becomes small, the LA no longer benefits from economies of scale, and cannot afford to support its own schools. At this point all schools in an LA need to become Academies, and take on all aspects of running a school without any outside help.

This is fine for large secondary schools as they have sufficient staffing and a large enough budget to survive, and they are used to managing themselves. Small primary schools do not. As Warwick Mansell says here,  for Academy chains, a small primary school is too risky to take on. So the small primaries really are on their own with no-one to help. Something they have never experienced before.

What will be the reaction of conservative Middle England when they discover too late that their Conservative Party policy has delivered the death of their village primary school?

If you live in a Lincolnshire village you need to wake up fast. You will be the first recipients of Mr Gove’s ill thought through experiment with what was a national education system. Start saving for the fees of a prep school nearby.
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Matthew Pearson's picture
Wed, 03/08/2011 - 11:33

Gove wants the bristling winds of the marketplace blowing through education, and as with all market places, parts of them will be unsustainable and will perish. This is the logic of a market and of unfettered consumer choice without a body (the LA) to control, plan and structure provision where necessary. The village school will be the first to go, but as you say, I think Middle England will only wake up to this when it is too late. Gove's vision is that the closed village primaries all open back up as free schools, but that is nothing more than an specious fantasy from a Secretary of State whose ideological bias is threatening the destruction of English education just as surely as Beeching threatened the destruction of the local railway networks.

Alan's picture
Wed, 03/08/2011 - 11:51

The county council stated yesterday that there will be no public consultation on academies. There should however be more focus on community hubs to join up practice between education, health and social care. It’s no longer acceptable to reject kids at 11+ and again at post 16 then to use anti-social behaviour reform to keep in check those who fall through the net:

Sarah's picture
Wed, 03/08/2011 - 13:12

The County Council can express an opinion about all of its schools becoming Academies but it can't actually make it happen since the local authority has no role in Academy conversion. It is a matter for the governing body of the school alone. And what Lincolnshire are trying to do is to frighten schools either into joining large academy chains or to remaining en bloc with the local authority since it (correctly) identifies the real risk to small primaries as being when they are operating alone without the capacity to manage everything itself nor the chain or LA to support it. This is a risky strategy by the County Council which is a little like turkeys voting for Christmas. You only have to look at the u-turn recently undertaken by the Kent Chief Exec to see that views on Academy status are evolving rapidly. For many local authorities the Academy phenomena is largely a secondary school one and the vast majority of primary schools outside London are remaining as maintained schools.

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