Yesterday I hosted a reception to highlight the interest of the Church of England in working with the Government and others to support a viable future for rural schools. The Church has published “Embracing Change: Rural and Small Schools”, which I commend to the House.
The Church obviously should be taking a long-term, if not eternal, approach on rural schools. People in Startforth were disappointed when a brief dip in performance led to the closure of that Church school, so in future will the Church take into account the significance of rural schools as community assets?
The Church of England has 4,700 schools, of which 53% are in rural areas. That often presents challenges—for example, the difficulty in recruiting and retaining teachers—but the report that I have referred to highlights those challenges. In addition to that report, we have a Church of England educational leadership foundation, which is designed to encourage and retain teachers, to ensure that children in small rural schools do not suffer as a result of the shortage of teachers.