DESPITE rural schools being the heartbeat of the communities that they serve, they’re facing an unequal struggle when it comes to funding.
A consultation is currently underway to assess the future viability of Burnt Yates Primary School near Harrogate which has 12 pupils on its roll. If it closes, as many already fear, it will become the seventh school to shut in North Yorkshire in the past year – and that the closure of Horton-in-Ribblesdale School last summer was just the start.
As such, it’s heartening that activists at the National Education Union conference are calling for rural schools to be given “protected status” to recognise “their significance” to “the survival of their communities”. Though there have been significant changes to the Government’s funding formula to end some of the anomalies which penalised the shire counties in particular, it is clear that Ministers – and some LEAs to a lesser extent – don’t sufficiently value rural schools and why it is impractical to expect youngsters to travel many miles to the nearest town for their schooling.
At the very least, there should be a moratorium on all closures and any such plans should only be sanctioned if it can be clearly demonstrated that there’s alternative provision – and that it will be beneficial to the education of the children in question. That should be the starting point. For, if schools do survive, other local amenities might not face such an uncertain future. And, if rural policy is truly integrated, some affordable homes might – in time – be built that help to attract young families to the village in question.