§ Mr. Hesford
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Government's support for rural schools. 
§ Ms Estelle Morris
The Government support rural schools. The White Paper "Our Countryside: The Future—A Fair Deal for Rural England", published in November last year, reinforced our commitment to continue a presumption against the closure of rural schools, invest to improve facilities, and connect all rural schools to the internet by 2002. As a result of our policies, only two rural schools have been approved for closure since August 1999, against a historical average of 30 such closures a year. Many rural schools are also small schools and benefit from the administrative support fund for small schools and the small schools support fund. From April 2001, these standards fund grants will be merged into a single small schools fund worth £80 million.