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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Number 10 Responds
to Online Petition

With the characteristic rapidity of national government, Number 10 has today responded to the online petition that ran during the campaign, and which had fulfilled its purpose last October.

"Derbyshire local authority is responsible in law for the organisation of school places in its area and Ministers have no role in the process. However the Government is firmly committed to rural schools, because we recognise that they are an important part of the rural landscape and an important factor in keeping rural communities alive. That is why, to protect rural schools, the Government introduced a presumption against their closure ten years ago. That does not mean that no rural school can ever close, but our statutory guidance makes clear that the case for closure needs to be strong and in the best interests of educational provision in the area.

In making decisions about rural school closures local authorities must have regard to the presumption and must take account of other factors such as transport availability and cost, alternatives to closure and the impact on the local community. We expect authorities to also take account of school performance, as it is our policy that they support popular and successful schools.

On 30 October 2007, in considering the proposals to close Combs Infant School, Derbyshire local authority took account of our guidance, specifically the need to justify rural school closures on the grounds of raising standards, and decided not to proceed with the closure.

We hope the local authority’s decision addresses your concerns and reassures you that we have put in place mechanisms to protect the future of small rural primary schools*.

The Prime Minister sends his best wishes for the future of Combs Infant School."

* Editor's emphasis.

Read the response on the Number 10 web site. The link to the relevant report is here.