§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what steps he is taking to ensure the viability of primary schools with small rolls. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
The viability of a school may depend on a range of factors and differ according to the particular situation in the area. It is for the local education authority to plan the provision of places in order to maximise parental preference and ensure good-quality education cost-effectively. Local education authorities have freedom in the budgets they delegate to schools to recognise the additional unit costs of small schools. We are establishing a Small School Support Fund from September to enable small schools to pilot innovative approaches to joint working and other forms of collaboration, and funds are being made available over 1999–2001 to provide more administrative support staff in small schools. There is also a presumption against the closure of schools in rural areas, where access to alternative provision may be more difficult.