Tuesday, 15 June 2010

School's out

If there's one thing which is absolutely guaranteed to bring out villagers with pitchforks and hay rakes, it's the subject of primary school closures.  With numbers falling throughout the country, however, schools have to be closed, and it's easy for those no longer involved in education to dismiss the concerns of villagers as parochial and short-sighted.

But in a tiny village, the local school is much more than it seems.  It's a social resource for the entire village, for starters.  A place where people meet, gossip, exchange information, views and make arrangements.

In villages where the population is not particularly mobile, it's also more than that. It's a store house of childhood memories and experiences, which is why threatened closures evoke responses which are largely unrelated to reason and economics.

Unfortunately, given our current economic situation, doing nothing isn't an option, and as long as UK legislation demands that children be educated and that they must attend school then schools are going to have to close.

Unless these small communities start to change things. Legislation does not require all children to attend school;  it only requires that they be educated and that councils provide schools in which that can happen.  There is nothing, however, to stop parents from educating their own children at home or from taking over schools themselves and educating the children there.

Let's not pretend this is easy; it isn't, because the communities would have to fund the school themselves, they'd have to meet standards for the education they provided and they'd have to be led by someone who really knew how to deal with council officials and the department for education and learning.  But it's possible and - if communities feel as strongly about preserving their village centres as they seem to, then they should be aware that they won't be the first to go down this path.

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