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Farron launches major campaign to defend small rural schools after County Council admits 'up to 32 could close'

September 18, 2012 9:39 AM

Tim Farron MP at Kendal Nursery SchoolCumbrian MP Tim Farron has today launched a major campaign to defend small rural schools after the Tory-Labour coalition at the County Council admitted in briefings that up to 32 small rural schools could face the axe.

In a letter to Tim from County Council leader Eddie Martin he says: 'The Government is currently implementing a new, simpler funding formula for primary and secondary schools. This will apply a consistent funding formula for all schools, including academies, with some local discretion. This is intended to ensure that school finances are fair, logical and transparent.'

The new rules, implemented by the Department for Education allow the council to make a local decision about the allocation of a lump sum of cash of between £0 and £200,000 to all schools. This lump sum has to be same for all schools, secondary or primary. It is clear that the County Council has the power to decide whether to support rural schools or to allow them to close.

The council is required by law to lodge its funding formula with the Department for Education by 31st October. The council announced their plans to schools across Cumbria about their plans on Monday morning and has launched a consultation process. In comparison, neighbouring Liberal Democrat controlled Northumberland started its consultation process back in July.

Tim has already contacted Eddie Martin and offered whatever assistance he can provide to defend our rural schools. Tim has also asked for a meeting with education ministers about the issue and has contacted Nick Clegg to ask him to look into the case. As a result of Tim's lobbying, the government have asked to see the impact of the council's discretionary spending on local schools - this has as yet not been supplied by the council, and is required by experts at the Department of Education.

Tim said: "Today we launch one the biggest campaigns we have ever run. Small rural schools are the lifeblood of our community and they are vital to village life for many places across Cumbria. The thought of nearly 50 of them closing is something I cannot and will not accept.

"As soon as I heard these plans I offered to help the County Council in Carlisle and I instantly got in touch with the Department of Education and called on them to work with me to defend these schools. These schools cannot and must not close and I know that with a massive community campaign we can defend them."