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School Closures

Volume 448: debated on Monday 3 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what criteria have to be met before a rural primary school can be closed; what process has to be followed by (a) the Government and (b) the local education authority; and what right of appeal parents have at each stage of the process. (81003)

Changes to local school organisation, including school closures, are decided under local decision-making arrangements. Ministers have no role in the process. Individual proposals are determined by the local authority if they published the proposals and there are no objections. In all other cases the proposals are decided by the local School Organisation Committee (SOC) or the schools adjudicator, if the SOC cannot reach a unanimous decision.

SOCs and schools adjudicators must have regard to Decision Makers’ Guidance issued by the Secretary of State when deciding proposals. The guidance includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools and sets out a range of factors that must be considered for the different types of proposals. For rural school closures the factors include: whether the case is strong and in the best interests of educational provision in the area; the overall effect of the closure on the local community; the transport implications and whether the possibilities of federated or extended schools to increase viability have been considered.

Where a local authority or governing body plan to close a school they must first consult interested parties, allowing sufficient time for people to consider the proposal and respond. Then, after considering views, and if they wish to proceed, the proposer must publish statutory proposals. Following publication and a six- week representation period the proposal will be decided by the appropriate decision maker. Once statutory proposals have been approved there is a duty for them to be implemented.

Parents are able to register their views on a proposal during the consultation and representation periods. Any comments made during the representation period are taken into account when the final decision is taken on the proposal. More information can be found on the Department’s School Organisation website at www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolorg