PLANNING school provision in an area is always going to be difficult. Not only are schools fixed on immoveable sites in key locations, population changes, the influx and exodus of young families will be highly variable. Local councils have a difficult task matching the places needed for schools, but at the same time saving money. So how small can a school be small and still remain viable?

Benfield Infant’s school is concerned that proposals to reduce its intake to one form entry, in effect 30 or so pupils per year. They have a real concern that the school will close. Small schools will always struggle, parents will wonder if a small school can deliver the quality of education they want for their child. Larger schools will have more money, more teachers, more variety they can offer. In the current climate, all schools are facing budget cuts and many are losing frontline services such as teachers and teaching assistants.

Although it is hard, and councils with an eye on ever dwindling finances will not like this, schools must be protected as much as possible. Once a school goes, it’s almost impossible to bring it back. Indeed, under the current law, councils cannot open new schools, even if they see the need for them. Some small schools are very creative in how they supplement their income and make the school premises as cost efficient as possible. Hosting adult classes, making the school a community focus for all local residents. It’s better to try and keep what we have, than risk losing it all, councils, schools and local parents need to work together on this and save small schools from closure.

  • James D Williams is a science lecturer at the University of Sussex