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Extended services hold key to future for village schools
Rural schools could hold the key to the ‘Big Society’, but need to maintain their commitment to wider extended services, such as breakfast clubs, youth work and support for families, according to a new report by Capacity for the Commission for Rural Communities.
The publication today of ‘Small Schools, Big Communities: Village Schools and Extended Services’ highlights the work of four extended services clusters in raising the achievement of children and young people in isolated communities. Village schools, in particular, play a crucial role in tackling under achievement and in enabling families to access services.
Extended services are one of a range of initiatives introduced between 1997 and 2010 to break the link between poverty and poor educational outcomes. Schools offering access to extended services face particular challenges in delivering services in rural areas, where populations are dispersed and which include many scattered small communities.
However, the provision of holiday schemes and other activities, childcare and parenting support may also offer a lifeline to remote villages and hamlets which suffer from poor transport links to larger towns. Village schools which are part of school clusters provide a venue for extended services and this may, in some circumstances, secure greater viability for schools with small and falling rolls.
Sarah McAdam, Chief Executive of the Commission for Rural Communities said: “Children and young people in low income rural households can experience considerable isolation and more limited choices when it comes to education, training and future employment. This report identifies village schools as the lynch-pin of extended services in rural communities and the key to ensuring that services reach all families, including those most at risk of exclusion.
“At a time when there is an emphasis on public participation in the delivery of services, rural schools offer an obvious vehicle for wider community access and engagement. Indeed, the report suggests that the extended services offer might be strengthened by closer alignment to a social enterprise or community development model.
“We hope the information provided will prompt and assist decision-makers to engage positively with rural communities in the design and delivery of flexible services which support rural children, young people and their families.”
Margaret Lochrie, Director of Capacity, said “Village schools are not only good for children, but provide an essential lifeline for families in need of help. There are significant inequalities of experience for families in rural areas. Services are less accessible and more expensive to provide. A quarter of rural children are living in poverty, but rural poverty is often hidden from view.
“As local authorities are required to reduce their spending, it is vital that the needs of rural families are not overlooked. Small schools are more expensive to maintain and there are fears among parents that cuts in spending could increase the numbers of closures of village schools. In their view, with rural shops, post offices and other services in decline, the loss of the village school would signal the death of the community itself.
“The government is due to introduce a pupil premium to provide additional funding for disadvantaged children. It is important that the formula adopted by the Department for Education for determining the payment reflects rural as well as urban types of disadvantage.
“Childcare and other services alongside schools strengthen village life. At a time when there is a new governmental emphasis on democratic renewal and the involvement of people in services, schools as the hubs of rural villages appear to offer an important template.”
Full and summary versions of the report ‘Small schools, big communities: village schools and extended services’ can be downloaded at: www.ruralcommunities.gov.uk
Download ‘Small Schools, Big Communities: Village Schools and Extended Services’
Download ‘Small Schools: Big Communities: summary report’
For further information contact Chris Wynne-Davies on 01242 534070
Notes for editors:
1. The Commission for Rural Communities is a statutory body funded by government to help ensure that policies, programmes and decisions take proper account of the circumstances of rural communities. We are required to have a particular focus on disadvantaged people and areas suffering from economic under-performance.
In essence, we have three key functions:
• Advocate: acting as a voice for rural people, businesses and communities;
• Expert adviser: giving evidence-based, objective advice to government and others; and
• Independent watchdog: monitoring and reporting on the delivery of policies nationally, regionally and locally.
2. On 29 June 2010, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that the Commission for Rural Communities is to be abolished during 2011. A new Rural Communities Policy Unit will be established within Defra. Its main functions will be:
• supporting ministers;
• acting as a centre of rural expertise;
• championing rural needs and issues across government departments and other bodies; and
• working with the civic sector to promote rural solutions at the local level.
The CRC is working with Defra to identify which of its activities and staff will move into the unit.
3. Capacity is a leading policy, practice and research body for children's services, based in Teddington, Middlesex. Established as a social enterprise, it specialises in cross-cutting services for children and families, helping to manage and deliver change where change is needed, and developing strategies to reduce child poverty. Previous publications include ‘Peace and Quiet Disadvantage’, a study of rural children’s centres, undertaken for the CRC and a study of outreach from children’s centres and schools, for Dcsf, both in 2009.
For more information about Capacity, visit its website at www.capacityltd.org.uk