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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 14:07 GMT
School closures are put on hold
School protesters
Protesters want all school closure proposals reconsidered
Plans to consult on closing 22 Shropshire schools have been put on hold after a protest by hundreds of parents, teachers and pupils.

But Shropshire County Council still intends to press ahead with proposals to merge 16 others.

Large crowds of protesters, many waving placards, and shouting "save our schools", gathered outside the meeting.

It comes as the government was accused of giving conflicting advice on hundreds of rural school closures.

Parents, pupils and teachers from the 38 Shropshire primary schools facing closure or merger led the demonstration on Wednesday morning.

This is a great result for people power in Shropshire
MP Philip Dunne

Councillor Ann Hartley, cabinet member for schools, announced the revised policy at the beginning of the meeting.

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne welcomed the decision.

"The county council will now have to go back to the drawing board to work out how to bridge the funding gap which this decision will leave.

"This is a great result for people power in Shropshire."

Mrs Hartley said the closure consultation plans would be stopped until consideration was given to the outcome of a meeting on Wednesday night between Shropshire MPs and minsters.

'Absolutely fantastic'

Further talks with schools and key "stakeholders" and another examination of pupil numbers will also take place before closures are reconsidered, she said.

The Rev David Chantry, governor at Beckbury Primary School, said: "I think we need to keep our eyes on it very carefully because this is an issue that will go on."

Andrew Spreadborough, head teacher at Rushbury Primary School, said: "I'd just like to know more information, what do they exactly mean by put on hold?

"Are they going to come back with more amalgamations and less closures?"

'Confused policy'

But Beckbury parent governor Gary Welburn said: "We're ecstatic it's absolutely fantastic, it really is."

The schools minister is writing to local authorities in England reminding them there is a legal presumption against closing rural schools.

But government guidance issued last month also told them to close smaller schools and remove surplus places.

Lib Dem spokesman David Laws said government advice was "confused and hypocritical".



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SEE ALSO
'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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