BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

places_features

You are in: Shropshire > places > places_features > Local primary schools face uncertain future

School children

School children

Local primary schools face uncertain future

As the number of primary school pupils falls in Shropshire, council bosses propose radical measures that could see 22 schools close and another 16 merge.

Proposals to close 22 village schools and merge a further 16 have been opposed by campaigners. A meeting of the Cabinet on 30 January decided to suspend the consultation exercise for the 22 schools proposed to close. However, consultation will go ahead on the 16 schools due to merge.

On Wednesday, 23 January Shropshire County Council bosses revealed the list of primary schools they planned to close or merge. Catch up with the latest on the story online in our news section.

Village education

The number of primary school pupils has been falling in the county over the last decade. Shropshire County Council and local teachers have been forced to face up to the very real possibility that 25% of all primary school places could lie vacant within five years: that's 5,450 empty seats.

Among Shropshire County Council's plans is an entitlement to a primary school place within six miles of a child's home (or within two miles in urban areas). Infant and junior schools could also merge in larger towns (except where the number of pupils would exceed 420). Schools are expected to have either four or seven classes (7 or 14 class schools in large towns).

County councillors voted in favour of the proposals on 14 December, after the cabinet issued its approval on 28 November. The decision was taken despite the urging of a council scrutiny panel, which asked the cabinet to reconsider its policy following public meetings in Craven Arms, Cockshutt and Shrewsbury. The panel also believed that there was a lack of information about how much money will be saved.

Funding

Currently each primary school pupil attracts around £3,500 of central funding a year - that's over £300 less than the English average. Like many other shire counties, Shropshire loses out as central government pumps extra funds into run-down urban areas.

Conservative MPs Owen Paterson and Philip Dunne, whose North Shropshire and Ludlow constituencies cover some of the county's most rural communities believe that bringing Shropshire's funding in line with the England average (an extra £12.7m) would instantly solve the problem. Owen Paterson argues that the problem is caused by "the government's refusal to understand the cost of delivering public services in thinly populated rural areas."

Meanwhile, for Shropshire County Council, the problem is that falling pupil numbers inevitably means less total funding. If the trend continues, the county council projects a £3.8m shortfall by 2010. The council's Portfolio Holder for Children's Services, Ann Hartley says that something must be done: "Staying as we are is unfortunately not an option."

"It really is a wonderful community around this area... the school provides a focus point."

John Rowe, head teacher at Hope Primary School

Radical measures are being proposed that will affect hundreds of families across the county and see around 22 primary schools closed or merged. About 1,100 people took part in a much-criticised consultation exercise.

Parents discovered which schools faced the chop on Wednesday 23 January and each school now faces a consultation process.

The recent experience of Grafton Primary School's move to the new £3m Bicton Primary suggests that merging some village schools can work. However, many villages are isolated, and the local school often provides the main focus for the community. Some teachers and parents fear that removing a school might also mean removing the heartbeat of the village.

Ian Terry, the Church of England's Director of Education for the Diocese of Hereford (which covers South Shropshire) voices a similar concern: "The school is at the heart of the village... If the school feels that it is under threat, that's a threat to the life of the whole local community."

As Telford and Wrekin's population continues to grow rapidly (expected to rise to 189,000 by 2021), the area is immune from the problems affecting the rest of geographical Shropshire.

An ageing population

So where have all the children gone?

Recently the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that Britain's population is expected to hit 65 million by 2016, and Shropshire's population is also growing. The ONS sub-national population projections estimate that Shropshire's population will grow by 12% (34,700) 2004-2029 to a total of 322,600 people, with migration playing a leading role.

However, the UK (like many other countries) has an increasingly ageing population. According to the 2001 census children under 16 make up 20% of the UK population (compared with 26% in 1971).

While Telford and Wrekin exceeds the national average, with 22% of the population under 16, Shropshire lags behind with just 19.1%.

Inevitably some areas of Shropshire have younger populations than others. Bridgnorth District Council's area has the lowest percentage, with under 16s making up just 17.5% of the total. In Oswestry Borough that rises to 20.2%.

last updated: 30/04/2008 at 11:59
created: 25/10/2007

Have Your Say

How do you feel about plans to close or merge up to 20 local primary schools. How would it affect your area? And how would you deal with the problem?

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

R Morris
Please dont destroy the essence of rural communities any further.

Philip Osborne
Chris Endacott seems to present a very balanced, considered argument as opposed to many others who are clearly upset by the decisions but can only present emotional unrealistic and selfish arguements for keeping their own schools open without any real logical explanation of how they think all these half-empty schools could continue to be funded out of a decreasing pot of money without damaging all the other schools in Shropshire and without requiring teachers and parents to continue volunteering long hours of unpaid work. If your real concern is for the children's future you need to consider ALL children, not just the 20 or so at your own school!

Victoria
Don`t diddle Myddle. Save our School!

Nikki Tildesley
Both my children attend Welshampton CofE School and we are devastated at the possibility of closure. The school is “outstanding in every aspect” according to Ofsted and offers "excellent value for money" - so where is the merit in closure. The children are very proud of their achievements and thrive in a small community school environment. They are happy and well adjusted and enjoy learning about their local area and its history. Isn’t it about time our Government started to look after children in rural areas? After all they have failed miserably in the inner cities. Funding would be better spent in smaller schools teaching respect for each other and pride in the local community. Please support us in saving our school by signing our on-line petition at www.savewelshamptonschool.co.uk Thank you The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites

Robert Lopez
I read with some amusement about the 'successful Grafton/Bicton merger'. To start with, it wasn't a merger - Grafton was closed, Bicton remained. Legally it was not a merger otherwise Grafton staff would have required employment guarantees in Bicton. This was not the case. The consultation process was a long one - by the end of it the number of Grafton pupils had gone down from 40 to 12. Less than ten moved on to Bicton the following term. Bicton is listed in the current Cabinet report as having 40 unfilled places - these were created for Grafton children who never came. Success? An odd way of trumpeting success if you ask me. I was a parent at Grafton and I didn't take my child to Bicton.

Emma
I think it is disqusting that they can just close the rural schools just by clicking there fingers. My little sister goes to buildwas primary and it is such a shock for everyone in Buildwas. Students, Teachers, parents and local villagers. It is such a huge loss for such a succssessful school. I left there last year and i think that it was a brilliant school and so are all the ones that are closing to. They do not think about anyone except themselves. Why don't they think about other people for once!!!

Chris Endacott
My other "financial interest" is as the Chair of Governors at Coleham Primary School. At £2,357 per pupil we are the worst funded primary school in Shropshire and for several years we have fought with the County Council (often Mr Ian Budd) over its funding policy, we have lobbied MPs, lobbied Ministers but all to no avail. We are now the worse funded primary school of our size and demographic in England and Wales. Why? Because Shropshire spends £8m on surplus capacity - £8m which if shared equally would put £160,000 back into our budget. Despite all of this we get wonderful results, some of the higher results in Shropshire, but that's the result of lot of unpaid work and lots of parent volunteers. No-one underestimates the impact of these changes on the schools involved but the alternative, further reduction in funding/child, will be even worse and affect every Shropshire child. The County Council has 10,000 employees – do they all have to declare an interest too, or only if they are writing to support the policy?

Tony Bromwich
I don't know whether to laugh or cry at the comments from Chris Endacott, this is far from being a simple problem! Mr. Endacott, these are children, families and communities you're commenting on here not vehicle fleet management which is clearly your area of previous expertise. Those with a financial interest in keeping in with the County Council should state this along with their comments. How is business at GFleet??

P.R.
I have had a long career as a teacher. I have worked in both primary and secondary education - in city and rural areas. Through the many years of working in education, it was normal for the numbers of children to fluxuate from year to year. Whenever there were low numbers forecast, it was always followed quite quickly by a sudden swell. How much money is it going to take to house the children when the next rise occurs? Will you suddenly have to BUILD new schools or will class numbers go back to what they were in the 1950's? Why, if the low numbers are not expected until 2012 is there such a panic now?Surely the children deserve some thought.Why, if absolutely necessary to adjust schools does it have to mean almost immediate remedies? Perhaps it would be more sensible and humane to explain that should there be no sign of a future upturn in numbers forecast by 2012 there would have to be a review.How anyone can announce closures when five, six and seven year old children throughout the county are the pawns in this decision- making is beyond me.What about the children who will be sitting their SATS in May 2010 - will allowances be made for the devastation and upheaval caused to them in moving schools during their final year?I would be interested to know details of the history behind these decisions and also details of the financial implications -including the full cost of transport from 2009 compared with this year and the amount required to adapt schools taking the children from those to be closed (not to mention the effect that putting so many school buses on the roads twice a day will have on the carbon footprint of the county)What will really be saved in the long run - it certainly will not be the peace of mind of the parents, families and staff or the happiness of the children of those schools named.These schools have been successful, happy places with far less money per child than even the AVERAGE schools in the country. Why not let them continue to give the children, fortunate enough to attend a small village school, the advantages which come with it.

Chris Endacott
The problem is a simple one, we have 23,838 Primary School places in Shropshire and only 20,328 pupils. We get £3,551 for each pupil from the Department for Schools, Children and Families (DSCF) – it funds pupils not places. That’s £72m for Shropshire children, enough if we spend it wisely. The first slice of money goes to fund shared services – about £13m for the Local Education Authority: special schools, school advisors; school support services, Arthog, and other shared facilities – and Shropshire has a lean LEA before everyone rushes to demand cuts there! That leaves about £59m for funding primary schools… £2,876/pupil except we spread it over 23,838 places at £2,452/place – and with 3,510 spare places we immediately waste over £8m. And we don’t spread it evenly. Every school must have two teachers even if it does not have 60 pupils and in KS1 the ratio cannot exceed 30:1, so we end up funding empty spaces. We find the money to fund those empty spaces by taking it from larger schools with full rolls. We’ve been doing this for years but now the system is at breaking point. As a result Adderley Primary School gets £4,054/pupil (more than Shropshire gets from the Government) but Oxon Primary School gets £2,360/pupil. Is that fair? Are children in Oxon worth so much less than children in Adderley? If we do nothing things get worse. By 2011 there will be only 18,917 primary school children in Shropshire and at 2007 prices DSCF will give Shropshire £67m. A £12m slice will go to a slimmed down LEA leaving £55m to pay for 23,838 places – only £2,282/place and with 4,921 spare places that will be £11m spent educating empty chairs – nearly 17% of the budget! The result will be devastating for the quality of education in Shropshire. In a school of 400 pupils and 14 teachers nearly £200 less per pupil is £80,000. Two teachers would have to go, year groups would be merged, and average class sizes jump from 28 to 33. And that is in a school with a full roll.Education money is for educating children and we must spend it for the benefit of all Shropshire children. It is not for the social engineering of village communities, and the rest of the country does not owe Shropshire a living. So let’s put away the begging bowl, learn from the successful Grafton & Bicton school merger, get this process over quickly and start spending our education funds wisely on children not chairs – the funding should follow the pupils.

David
Can I ask publically on this site 1) What Capital expenditure has there been in the last 5 years on the schools which are proposed to close, please include public and charity voluntary projects2) With the choice agenda were parents currently sending children to school for the first time told before the applications were due (in mid jan) that the schools of their choice may be closing.3) Is this good governance?

Kate H
Where are the savings in this at local levels? Children will need to be funded where they move to as new classes will need to be formed. Transport costs are already identified as rising as a result of the possible closures. The impact of increased travel is of course environmental. There is not likely to be a decrease in travel following these plans. This is a short term plan which will bring real devestation to village communities.

Linda A
I'm appauled to hear that Cheswardine and so many other of our county primary schools have been targetted for closure. Myself and my partner were pupils at Ches' school,along with our children, our parents, our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. The school has and always will be the heart of Cheswardine. OUR VILLAGE NEEDS CHES SCHOOL. People have have fought to keep it open before,and I feel sure we will fight to keep it open now.We need children and young people to keep our village alive. They are our future and our very soul. COME ON Shropshire MP's and Councillors,remember who votes for you, you know this is the last straw for Ches and other rural villages.Ches has lost the butchers,the bakers,post office,garage,and the pubs are on the decrease along with the last remaining shop which I believe is up for sale. There are few local employment opportunities within walking or cycling distance.On one hand your asking us to think about the environment and save energy. If you close Ches school where are all the children going to have to travel too and who's going to pay? -The parents I s'pose? Yet again rural communities have to pay more and get back little in return with having less amenities and access to services, and have little chance of becoming more eco friendly with less commuting etc.North Shropshire housing stock has now been flogged off to Meres & Moses, and if it's anything like Telford & Wrekin Council Housing Trust it may not be long before they start flogging the village rentable properties off. Where does this leave us? No affordable housing to rent or buy, no school, no local amenities. Oh! We could become a village full of commuters. Now we about to become a Unitary Authority,it was stated that money would be saved,what they forgot to mention it would be our rural children and their families and village life for ordinary folk of Shropshire who would be paying the cost.Before you ask, I'm not just sentimemtal, I truly believe that village life dies when their school goes. I've witnessed it and you would never get that part of rural life back again even if you put a hugh increase on the council tax!You ask how would I deal with the problem? For one thing,I would ensure that the consultation process is not just a tokenistic jesture,instead of 'have you say'our community should be really listened too and that our views,ideas and suggestions will really make a difference.

Oswestrian
If the number of children in the schools over the whole of the County is to fall so much - how many paper pushers will get their marching orders? or will there be the same or more of them in Shirehall to look after a lot less children?There MUST be a lot of waste in Shirehall - it was only 10 years ago that about a third of them went to Telford - now its a building bulging at the seams again. Do we need diversity officers and all the other non jobs the Government keeps creating?

ShropshireLadd
This government can find limitless amounts of money to squander on management consultants, PR men, special advisors and the like. Not to mention the war in Irag and several billion to save Brown's face over the Northern Rock debacle. It's outrageous that they should cut education budgets in rural areas.

Jemima Willis
There are lots of places in the big schools while small village schools are over subscibed. Why can they not scale down the larger schools and turn them into 'village' schools therefore maintaining choice and improving facilities for all. Church Preen is due for closure - I would rather educate my daughters at home before sending them too our nearest local primary school!

Amanda Millington
we have been told today that Buildwas primary is on the closure list. We are all very suprised as the school is full.And doing so well since Mrs Helen Whittaker took over. All the parents are very angry and we will fight to save our school.

jane armstrong
my youngest daughter of 6 children started Selattyn C of E school 3 wks ago along with her brother who is in yr 5, all of my children have gone there, its where she says she feels safe! How can small children be made to suffer. Selattyn school is fantastic!!!!

Alison Arrowsmith
When Morton Scool was shut it Killed the Community because younger families don't want to move to an area without a primary school, is it going to be the same for all the small rural locations.

Nicchi Cannon
If Shropshire County Council were to buck the trend and declare that we would be a county of small classes, it would instantly cut many of the so called 'empty places'. Research paper after research paper is coming out about bigger classes not working so we should therefore be embracing our rural heritage and opting for smaller class sizes and smaller schools. Funding will always be an issue, but they find lots of other imaginative ways to waste our taxpayers money so they should at least be funding education adequately.

L H
I AM A TEACHING ASSISTANT FROM ONE OF THESE SMALL RURAL PRIMARY SCHOOLS AND I AM SEEING 1ST HAND THE DAMAGE THAT THIS IS CAUSING. THE DISTRESS THAT THE CHILDREN ARE IN WORRYING ABOUT JOINING A LARGE SCHOOL, IT'S HEART BREAKING, OUR LITTLE SCHOOL IS (IN THE CHILDRENS OWN WORDS )OUR LITTLE FAMILY!AS A TEACHING ASSISTANT I KNOW EVERY CHILD INDIVIDUALLY AND THEIR PERSONALITY, I KNOW IF SOMETHING IS WRONG, IF THEY ARE ILL, IF SOMETHING IS ON THEIR MIND, EVERYTHING.THIS IS NOT AS EASY TO NOTICE WHEN YOU ARE FACED WITH 30 KIDS IN ONE CLASS ALONE NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY. WE ARE ONE OF THE TOP 5 IN THE LEAGUE TABLE. AFTER GAINING 100% IN LAST YEARS SATS AND THE CONTINUING HIGH LEVEL OF TEACHING ITS BIZARRE WHY ANYONE WOULD WANT TO CONSIDER CLOSING US OR OTHERS WHO ARE AT THE SAME LEVEL. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS A GOOD EDUCATION, THAT CHILDREN ARE GETTING THE BEST THAT THEY CAN AND DESERVE SO THAT THESE KIDS IN LATER LIFE WILL HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE TO GET THEM THE BEST JOBS POSSIBLE SO THEY ARE LESS LIKELY TO CLAIM BENEFITS.

Colin T
Thank you to A.C. Observer, for you highly inaccurate and un-observant assessment. Surely, you statement is at the very least contradictory: If the school is unable to provide the facilities to meet the needs of the children, then why do so many parents choose to ferry their children to this school instead of sending them to their local catchment schools? I think the recent OFSTED inspection soon to be published will answer this question in no uncertain terms, please read it. As for your other comments, Many children from the village have benefited from the superior education afforded by this school over the years, and hopefully this will continue for many years to come. In addition, many of the school governors are also from the village. As for vehicles constituting a major road hazard, most parents try to car share where practical so there are usually no more than 15-20 cars for around 15 minutes twice a day. The biggest road hazard in Ashford Carbonell are a handful of ignorant motorists who insist on treating the village road like a race track, and if the school closed tomorrow, those people still live there. One final thought, if this school does close, what will be in its place? how about a large housing development, always a popular choice with the constant nay-sayers: affordable social housing is the big buzz word at the moment!

derek isaac
Ny daughter and son attend the new Bicton Primary and attended Grafton before.My wife and i were concerned,as were other parents,about this move but we have found the new school with its new facilities far surpassed the old school at Grafton.We have found the teaching staff to be excellent,particularly the Headmaster Mr Davies whose commitment to this new venture was second to none. It also gave my daughter Emily the chance to be treated like royalty for the day as she opened the new school.

A.C. Observer
Ashford Carbonell junior school does not have a single child in the village, that attends this school. All children are transported in by car, from around and about. Not only is this very wrong, and dangerous in the village, but the children need better facilities than those provided by this small village school. This school is of no benefit to the village, a big waste of car fuel, and creates a major road hazard. There is no doubt, this school should be closed, as a benefit to all.

Shropspy
Nick Gallgher has missed the point in so many ways.First, the vast majority of rural schools will remain and become stronger because they will have more staff and pupils.Second, the £12.7m is the difference between average funding from the government for all Councils for schools and what Shropshire gets.Third, no money is being taken from the education budget.Fourth, well he's rpobably stopped listening because this isn't what he wants to hear.

Jo Tucker
I've heard people talk about "unmanageable bloodbaths". Get real and responsible people. By all means consider plans to improve schools and specific proposals on their demerits or merits. Please do not blight yours or future children's learning opportunities by your behaviour or by failing to give individual plans proper consideration. Nick- Ann Hartley can't be held responisble for national funding of schools. Less pupils equals less cash- 'orrible but true.Given that 10 schools are urban, more urban kids are affected by these plans than rural.Jennifer- of course you have choices between small and medium, but not large schools in Shropshire. The policy doesn't change that. It also says that funding for kids' education in towns will continue to be diverted to support small 2 and 3 teacher schools in country areas.

Steve Barras
The plans will impact on those schools that are closed those that are merged and those that have to receive the displaced children. I would like, early in the new year, to arrange a meeting to discuss options ideally with a least one person from each of the primary schools. If you would be interested in being informed about a meeting please email me at steve@sbarras.wanadoo.co.uk

tony harris
the county council only paid lip service to the consultation,as they had already made up there mind.the reality is that parents do not have a choice in selecting the school our children go to it is nothing more than spin.

Nicchi Cannon
This is a rural county with rural communities!! Wake up Shropshire Councillors and celebrate our heritage, not strip it all away. Why not be radical and reduce class sizes to say 25 max? The rest of the country will follow because larger classes are not working. 'Every Child Matters'? NO, MONEY MATTERS MORE. SHAME ON YOU ALL!!!!

Nick Gallagher
My village only has a primary school and the church. When Ann Hartley closes the school it will remove the centre of the community. This is clearly a missmanged council if they are £12.7m short of the national average. Why must my son pay the price of her incompetence. It is again the rural villages that are punished. Why is the short fall being taken from the eduction budget. I would have thought this is the last place to steal from.

Jennifer Millward
I took my daughter out of the larger schools as I felt there were too many children to a class she didnt seem to learn anything there and since I put her into the smaller school she has improved greatly. I believe this is penny pinching and taking a parents right to choose a school weather it is large or small off us, they are clearly not thinking of the children and standards of teaching and im willing to fight them all the way to stop this happening.

You are in: Shropshire > places > places_features > Local primary schools face uncertain future

5 DAY FORECAST
The latest forecast for your area from BBC Weather
[an error occurred while processing this directive]


About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy