Sunday, February 10, 2008

Schools Close Daily

Schools are being shut at the rate of almost one a day, with hundreds axed in rural areas in the past five years.

The full extent of the closures is revealed for the first time in new government figures which show that a total of 1,704 schools have been shut in England since 2002 - an average of 6.6 a week.

Rural counties figure high on the list. Twenty-six schools have been axed in Durham, 58 in Kent, 34 in Lancashire, 33 in Norfolk and 38 in Northamptonshire. Worcestershire has seen the closure of 56 schools, while 33 have closed in Wiltshire.

The disclosure, in figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, follows reports of plans to close up to 300 more across the country, many in small villages.

Critics say the Government and local councils are draining the lifeblood of rural communities for short-term savings. Mervyn Benford, a spokesman for the National Association for Small Schools, said: "The loss of a school is often the first or last straw in a chain of events that leads to depopulation and rural decline. Villages are left with older residents and starved of younger people. Without young families, villages are left to a living death. When these schools close, consultation with the local community is a token gesture. Local authorities ride roughshod over their statutory duty."

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