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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 15:05 GMT
Fighting to rescue rural schools
By Jeremy Cooke
BBC News

Rural school closure protesters
Hope Primary was one of the schools protesters wanted to protect
Hundreds of people have protested against Shropshire's planned rural school closures in the county town of Shrewsbury.

From small villages across Shropshire they arrived at Shire Hall in Shrewsbury with the same message - "Save our schools."

The county had told 22 village primaries that they were being proposed for closure. This was their response.

The coaches arrived from every direction, each one carrying groups of children proudly displaying their school colours. As they joined the others the chanting grew louder and there was a sense that this was a determined community-led protest.

One of the schools represented here was Hope Primary. It is a small school of just 50 pupils, set in a rolling agricultural landscape, and it is typical of those in Shropshire - and around 100 more across the country - which are under threat.

This has been my first school, and nothing is better than your first school, is it ?
Sam, Hope Primary School pupil

Here the kids are well aware that their school may close but they are determined to stop it happening.

Six-year-old Abigail told me: "My Daddy and all of his brothers came to this school. My Nanny was a caretaker."

And her classmate, Sam, made it clear that, for him, this small school is everything.

"This has been my first school and nothing is better than your first school, is it ?" he said.

The parents, too, are determined to stop the closure.

Sam's Dad, Richard Bayliss, said: "We will fight. The council will regret they'd ever heard of Hope School."

In this village, it is clear that small country schools play an important role in the wider community.

At the shop-cum-post office, the owner, Jennifer Jones, is in no doubt that if the school is lost her business will go too.

"I need the passing trade. I need the mothers going to the school. It is hopeless," she insists.

School protesters
Coaches brought protesters from all over the county

Back at Shire Hall, there was a huge cheer when it was announced that plans for the closure of schools had been shelved. At least for now.

But the council accepts that there can be no guarantees that the schools on that list can in fact be saved.

It is still struggling to cope with falling pupil numbers and tight budgets.

And there are calls for central government to provide more funding to underpin its stated commitment to rural schools.

Most parents here think there is no room for complacency. They believe that today they have won a battle but that the war to save rural schools across the country is far from over.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
"We really believe we're going to win this fight."



SEE ALSO
School closures are put on hold
30 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
'Muddle' on rural school closures
30 Jan 08 |  Education
Warning on rural school closures
30 Jan 08 |  Education
Schools to plead case on closures
29 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
School cuts 'risk country life'
27 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
Head backs schools closure plan
25 Jan 08 |  Shropshire
Closure threat schools revealed
23 Jan 08 |  Shropshire

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