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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 January 2008, 11:38 GMT
Village schools 'facing closure'
Protest against the planned closure of the village school in Buildwas, Shropshire
The government denies a policy of closing smaller schools
Hundreds of village schools are threatened with closure because of government targets and pressure to fill empty places, campaigners have warned.

The National Association for Small Schools says more than 100 in England and Wales have already been earmarked for closure and many more will follow.

It blames government targets for new services such as out-of-hours tuition, which smaller schools cannot provide.

The government has denied it has a policy of closing small schools.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families says the decision on whether or not to shut a school rests with the local authority.

Falling numbers

A spokesman added that the government was providing unprecedented levels of funding to help local authorities face what it calls the "challenges and opportunities" caused by a falling birth rate.

"Primary pupil numbers have fallen by approximately 10% since 1999, due to demographic shift and a declining birth rate," he said.

The government has been driving this for two years. It's a complete U-turn
Mervyn Benford, National Association for Small Schools

"This presents both challenges and opportunities to local authorities to reassess how they organise and divide their schools."

But campaigners argue the government's plans to introduce services such as after-school clubs and childcare for 10 hours a day spell the closure of village schools.


Last week, there were major protests in Shropshire over the council's plans to shut 22 primary schools.

Most are small village schools with fewer than 90 pupils. Sixteen other schools are recommended for merger as part of the major reorganisation.

It is not economically viable to keep schools open with only a few pupils
Dave, Haverfordwest

Mervyn Benford, from the National Association for Small Schools, told the BBC: "Shropshire, Herefordshire, the Isle of Wight and Gwynedd in North Wales want to close between 20 and 35 small village schools each."

Mr Benford said that other counties, including Kent, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Oxfordshire and Lincolnshire were also affected.

He said: "The government has been driving this for two years. It's a complete U-turn.

"At risk is one of the most effective models of education in this country.

"Like the village post office, the school is a community resource - if those schools were to go then the community would be impoverished."

Village schools in crisis

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