HC Deb 20 April 2004 vol 420 c473W
David Hamilton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, what criteria are applied when making decisions on closing(a) rural schools and (b) urban schools. [165587]

Stephen Twigg

[holding answer 19 April 2004]: Under arrangements for local decision making School Organisation Committees and schools adjudicators must consider guidance issued by the Secretary of State when taking decisions on statutory proposals to close any school—rural or urban.

The guidance emphasises that all proposals must be considered on their individual merit and in the light of local circumstances. It also provides a list of factors that must be considered. For school closures this includes: the impact on standards of provision in the area, the supply and demand for places, the cost effectiveness of proposals, the views of interested parties, the journey to alternative provision, the effect on the local community etc. The guidance also includes a presumption to approve proposals to close a failing school if there is to be a fresh start school established in its place.

For proposals to close rural schools there is a presumption against the closure except where the case is strong and in the best interests of provision in the area. The guidance recommends that the transport implications of rural school closures should be considered and the overall effect on the community of closure of village schools. It also advises that the new provisions for federated and extended schools should be considered to increase the viability of rural schools before closure proposals are brought forward. There are no specific factors that apply to the consideration of urban school closures. More information can be found on the Department's School Organisation Website www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolorg.