Future of village schools in the Harborough area discussed in Parliament

Neil O'Brien in Parliament
Neil O'Brien in Parliament

Harborough's MP led a debate on the future of small rural schools both across the local area and nationally.

Neil O’Brien, MP for Harborough has led a debate in the House of Commons concerning the future of small village schools, both across the country and locally in Harborough.

In the debate held in Parliament on Wednesday, July 17, Neil spoke of trends seen over recent years and decades which have shown the closure of small village schools across the country.

Neil said, “This is an important issue that affects small village schools in Harborough and across the Country. We have some fantastic village schools in the constituency, but we need to change the way they are funded to ensure their survival.

"I’ve been fortunate to visit a number of them and have seen not only the impressive teaching, but also the important and often central role they play in many of the villages. This is something I will continue to champion to Ministers to ensure they receive the funding they deserve and need.”

Key points in the debate included:

- In recent decades the number of small primary schools has halved, while the number of very large schools has increased dramatically. In 1980 there were 11,464 small primary schools in England with 200 or fewer pupils. In 2018 there were just 5,406. In contrast, the number of primaries with over 600 pupils has increased from 49 to 780 over the same period.

- Rural schools have been twice as likely as urban schools to close without replacement. Since 2010 nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of primary schools which shut were rural. Since 2000 alone nearly 150 rural primaries have closed

- Small schools are better or equal to larger schools in terms of academic performance. A third of primaries have fewer 200 or fewer pupils – they are just as likely to be good or outstanding as other schools.

- A broken planning system has meant it has been hard to get developers to pay for new schools. Instead, schools expand beyond their intended size: build onto playing fields, and cover a wider catchment.