Shropshire

Decision time for county's closure-threatened schools

After weeks of pleading, petitioning and protesting, it is now a waiting game for nine Shropshire schools.

More than 800 pupils and their teachers face the possibility of moving or losing their schools through plans put forward by Shropshire Council.

A six-week consultation on the proposals, to close eight primary schools and one secondary, has ended.

Director of People's Services David Taylor will now decide whether to proceed with the plans.

The proposal that has provoked the most vociferous protests relates to the only secondary school on the list, the Wakeman.

Like many others on the list, the Wakeman has falling pupil numbers, with just 329 pupils in a building that can hold 675. But head teacher Karen Moore says that is because it has long had an uncertain future.

Fall in grant

Figures show 36,645 pupils are registered at Shropshire schools, 243 fewer than last year and 2,800 fewer than in 2005.

That overall trend is set to continue until 2014, although primary school numbers are expected to start increasing.

The main reason for closing schools is because of a fall in the overall Direct Schools Grant (DSG), which comes from central government .

The county receives £4,012 per pupil, putting it firmly near the bottom of the funding list.

Total pupil numbers mean the council is now receiving £10m less a year than it was in 2005.

The proposals are expected to save £1m a year, which the council intends to plough back into education.

Ofsted has warned that standards were "stalling" and that too many school were achieving "satisfactory" results.

All the schools on the closure list have an Ofsted rating of "satisfactory" apart from Stiperstones. Campaigners say that is just one reason why it should stay open.

There has also been concern from parents at Onny School about pupils transferring to Stokesay, which has been given notice to improve by Ofsted.

The council has said it is confident Stokesay will meet its target.

Barrow School is on the list as it is not only very small, but, like Onny, has a high number of pupils living outside the catchment area.

School governors are investigating the possibility of becoming an Academy or Free School as an alternative to closure. That would allow the school to control its own finances.

Another alternative to closure is federating, or sharing resources, with a neighbouring school.

Governors at Onny and Maesbury are considering this as an option. Federation plans are already moving forward at 20 other primary schools.

David Taylor, the council's director of people's services, will make a decision on whether to move forward with the proposals. This will be made public on the 27 April.

The cabinet will then decide whether to support his recommendations on 4 May. A final decision will be made in July.

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