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Rural governors too 'territorial'

GOVERNORS may scupper plans to safeguard the future of village schools by thinking selfishly and not sharing the buildings with the community.

The Government says small, rural schools have never been more secure. Between 1983 and 1997, 450 small schools closed but only six have shut their gates since Labour came to power.

The Education Secretary has the final say in the fate of a school, but the Government has warned that protection is not guaranteed.

Diana Organ, the new president of Action with Communities in Rural England, says schools needed to think creatively to avoid the threat of closure.

Ms Organ, Labour MP for the Forest of Dean, told a conference entitled "Making the Most of Village Schools" that schools should consider accommodating post offices or village halls.

But she added: "The biggest problem is governors. They are very territorial and when new ideasare put forward they tend to think on the negative side."

Peter Bradley, chair of the Labour group of rural MPs, said: "Governors instantly think of things like security and insurance costs when people suggest other uses for school buildings. They need to think of schools as an asset of the whole community."

Professor Maurice Galton, associate director of research at Homerton College, Cambridge, said clusters of schools which pool resources had overcome surplus-place problems in areas like Dorset. But he said the system needed governors' support. "Governors have a tendency to think 'why should I help the school down the road, if they don't do well we might pick up their pupils'."

National Governors' Council chair Christine Gale said rural schools were more likely to have "traditional" governors who were less likely than their urban counterparts to be outward-looking.

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