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Schools: Rural Areas

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what steps are being taken to safeguard effective rural school provision. (181156)

Local authorities, as commissioners of educational services, are responsible for planning school places in their area. They have a duty to ensure that there is sufficient supply to meet local needs, and that high quality education is provided in a cost effective way.

Because we recognise that rural schools play an important role within their local communities we have taken, and will continue to take, measures to support both schools and communities in rural areas. For example, in 1998 we introduced a presumption against closing rural primary schools which means that, although we cannot guarantee that no rural school will ever close, the case for closure needs to be strong and clearly in the best interests of education provision in the area. In the Education and Inspections Act 2006 we introduced a statutory duty on those proposing to close a rural primary school to consult parents of pupils registered at the school; the district council for the area in which the school is situated; if the local authority is a county council, any parish council for the area in which the school is situated; and any other relevant person(s).