Teachers call to save rural schools in face of academy plans and funding squeeze

Losing village schools means communities are left with ‘no heart’, the ATL conference hears

Teachers have raised concerns about the future of small schools in the light of the government’s plans to turn all schools into academies.

A squeeze on funding and the cost of covering long-term staff illness also threaten small rural schools, the annual conference of the ATL teaching union heard.

One ATL branch secretary, who has witnessed the closure of four small rural schools in Devon during his time in the role, stressed that these villages “now have no heart”.

Trevor Cope, from Devon, who called for the ATL to investigate what he described as a “rural crisis”, stressed that school closures have caused “untold damage” to communities.

A motion calling on the government to protect the funding of small schools was carried by ATL members today.

‘The final nail in the coffin’

It follows a story in TES last month about how small schools feared closure in the wake of forced academisation.

Joyce Walters, from Devon, said that rural schools “are the glue and the epicentre of rural communities”.

She added that so many of the issues facing the education sector “could be the final nail for many rural schools that means that they will no longer be able to stay open”.

Richard Griffiths, from South Glamorgan, told delegates about a rural school that he used to work in that is scheduled to close next year because it is considered “too expensive to maintain”.

He said: “It is cheaper to educate children in large schools. However, is it really more effective? And does one size fit all?”

The union will now campaign to protect small primary schools.

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