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Funding changes could lead to school closures, critics warn
SMALL rural schools in the region risk being “starved of money” by Government funding changes, critics of the system have warned.
A move to simplify education funding could result in the closure of schools with the fewest pupils, claims North Yorkshire county councillor John Blackie.
Coun Blackie critcised the changes after hosting a meeting of seven small primary schools in the Yorkshire Dales.
From 2013, all schools, regardless of size, will be given the same lump sum of funding by their local education authority.
Under the formula, schools can be given extra money based on ten factors, such as numbers of pupils and levels of deprivation.
However, local education authorities will lose the ability to allocate more funding to a school in need of extra support, such as small schools with high overheads.
Coun Blackie said the seven Dales schools may not lose out immediately under the new system, but it was feared the changes were driven by a "funding by pupil number" approach that would ultimately starve them of funding and potentially force their close.
He said: “This is making us here in the Upper Dales very concerned given the small numbers attending the serve schools that serve us.”
The schools, together with secondaries which serve the Upper Dales, are to make joint representation to the Department of Education and local MP William Hague about the changes.
Further concerns have been raised by councillors at Richmondshire District Council.
Councillors Angie Dale and Paul Cullen have issued a motion supporting efforts to lobby the Government over the changes.
The community leaders point out that several schools in Catterick Garrison are likely to lose out, including Carnagill Primary School, which it is estimated would lose £158,000 a year.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said the Government recognised that small schools, particularly those in rural areas, could not meet some of their fixed costs through per pupil funding alone.
She added: "That is why we are allowing local authorities to allocate a lump sum of up to £200,000 for all schools. This should provide enough flexibility to support successful small and rural schools to meet their fixed costs."