Opinion: Education funding formula favours large schools at expense of small ones
YOUR coverage of the looming redundancies at Leven Primary School (Mail, March 6) is tremendously important.
As your article explained, there are likely to be many more job losses, particularly in rural primary schools.
We predict there will also be primary school closures.
Yet the overall level of central government funding is to remain unchanged for at least the next couple of years.
The reason for the redundancies and planned closures (at least three are under discussion) is that East Riding Council has applied a funding formula that favours very large schools at the expense of smaller schools.
The council first tried to duck the responsibility for the formula by blaming central Government.
When this was exposed, it now says the formula was determined by a wholly separate and independent body, the Schools Forum, most of whose members are effectively council employees and which is serviced by council officers who put forward the funding proposals.
Pontius Pilate could take lessons from the council on ducking responsibility.
Ironically, central government recognises the educational value of small schools and their crucial importance in rural areas like East Yorkshire.
It operates a "statutory presumption against closure" of small rural primary schools.
This is a powerful acknowledgment of the importance of rural primaries to attract younger families, to retain balanced population and to restrict transport implications of making children travel to big town schools.
There is also developing evidence about the particular success of small rural schools (often with cross-year teaching) in growing social confidence and a sense of community engagement which larger schools sometimes find more difficult to achieve.
We suggest that all small schools (under 150 pupils) are under threat and their best defence is to loudly challenge the funding formula and press the council to revise it urgently.
Exactly 50 years ago this month, Dr Beeching published his report recommending the closure of 5,000 miles of railway track and 2,363 stations. Today, demand for rail travel is higher than at any time since the war but there is no chance of restoring the infrastructure.
The council seems hell-bent on making a similar mistake with its rural schools infrastructure as it ploughs ahead with a major redistribution of funding while denying responsibility for blundering towards a social and educational disaster.