THE plight of Yorkshire’s rural schools is deeply concerning as they struggle to make ends meet – or even remain open – in the face of falling pupil numbers.
The schools’ difficulties are indivisible from the wider problems facing our rural communities. A combination of factors, including a lack of opportunities for young people resulting in them moving away, shortage of affordable homes and an ageing population are resulting in a perfect storm for small towns and villages.
Losing schools can only make matters worse, and it is particularly worrying that falling pupil numbers are not only affecting primaries, but now being felt in smaller secondaries too.
If they are lost, children would have to travel long distances to school. That is unacceptable in itself, but it also has implications for the communities involved. Schools are at their heart, as much a part of the fabric of towns and villages as shops or churches, and their loss would diminish them.
None of this is the fault of the schools themselves or the education authorities. The problem lies with the Government’s funding formula, which is skewed against rural areas. They are receiving neither a fair deal, nor consideration of the challenges schools in the countryside face.
This is an issue on which the Government must act without delay. There needs to be a comprehensive rethink on how rural education is funded, informed by an acknowledgement that its problems differ from those of urban areas. Rural schools cannot be abandoned and left to die.