Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 17:20 UK

Small schools 'should stay open'

Young campaigners in Buildwas
Protesters fought plans to close 22 schools in the county

Small rural schools in Shropshire should not be closed to plug funding gaps, a report has recommended.

The Independent Policy Commission has published its report after examining the future of the county's primary schools for a year.

Commission chairman Neil Kinghan said the county's education system was good but that it faced financial pressures.

Instead of closures, the report recommended closer partnerships between schools, but not mergers.

Plans to close 22 schools across the county were shelved after protests by hundreds of parents, teachers and pupils in January 2008. However, plans to merge 14 other schools are going ahead.

'Closer partnerships'

Shropshire Council said the report's publication was "just the beginning of a process" as it would widely consult over the recommendations.

Mr Kinghan, a senior civil servant, said the commission believed the government should put a bigger share of its school funding into Shropshire and other rural areas.

But, he added, the county would have to find other ways of "filling the gap".

He said: "We recommend that they should not do that by closing small schools, but by taking a small amount of money away from all the schools - except the largest.

"That's a more sensible way forward."

'Better still'

The commission recommended that teachers and head teachers from neighbouring schools worked more closely together, which Mr Kinghan said would give children "the opportunity to move between the schools".

The commission chairman said: "We think Shropshire schools have done very well but would do better still if they worked more closely together."

He said there should be "better partnerships" between primary and secondary schools and between schools and the community.

Mr Kinghan added that such partnerships would save money from the council's school budget over time.

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