Page last updated at 12:25 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 13:25 UK

County schools report is welcomed

Pupils at Moreton Say school protesting against closure plans
Pupils at Moreton Say made banners against proposed closure in 2008

A report about the future of Shropshire's primary schools has been described as a "very welcome kick in the pants" by a councillor.

Cecilia Motley, of Shropshire Council, said the Independent Policy Commission report "has given us some good directions to go down".

The report was commissioned by the county council after plans to close 22 schools across the county were shelved.

It concluded small rural schools should not be shut to plug funding gaps.

'Best education'

Commission chairman Neil Kinghan said there was no case on educational grounds for closing schools, and the commission admired Shropshire's attitude to education.

"We've been impressed by the commitment that we've seen from everybody to getting the best education for children in Shropshire," he said.

He said Shropshire faced a lot of financial pressures. "We think the government should give a bigger share of funding to Shropshire and other rural areas facing the same sort of problems."

Ms Motley, council cabinet member for children and young people, said the report was very helpful.

Protestors at Shire Hall in Shrewsbury
Protestors at Shire Hall

"After all the furore that went on over the proposed closure of 22 primary schools, this is actually a very welcome kick in the pants for us," she said.

Ms Motley agreed with the commission's conclusion that Shropshire needed more money from the government.

"Shropshire is good at getting a quart out of a pint pot," she said. "We do have a funding gap. We've got to do something about it."

Plans to close some of Shropshire's schools were put out to official consultation in September 2007. At the time the then county council warned that up to 20 schools faced closure or merger because of falling pupil numbers.

The council said if nothing was done there would be about 5,500 surplus school places in 2012.

Closure plans

In January 2008 the council announced that 22 primary schools were facing closure and 16 were recommended for merger. Most earmarked for closure were small village schools with fewer than 90 pupils.

Parents and pupils protested against the plans, and church leaders were also critical, claiming the closures would harm village communities.

It was claimed the closures would save about £733,000 in the first year and £1.8m in the second.

Hundreds protested outside Shire Hall in Shrewsbury, arriving by coach from small villages across Shropshire.

In the end only 14 mergers went ahead. Lydbury North and Clunbury schools were reprieved.

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