Beeching buffers

6th June 2003 at 01:00
IT is becoming more and more evident that a Beeching-style axe is being taken to schools. The analogy with the railways is striking. Once, every village had its railway station and its station master. This was followed by a move to area stations with one manager responsible for more than one station - does that not ring bells?

Now we see from the Western Isles, Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire that area schools are flavour of the month. There are two main reasons. The increasingly influential Audit Scotland inspects education authorities along with HMI and keeps a beady eye on councils with half-empty schools.

Second, the advent of public private partnerships to build schools is acting as a significant driver in promoting closures. As Professor John Curtice noted in his analysis of the South Lanarkshire school consultations, parents vote more strongly to accept closures if they see a return in investment in new buildings.

Of course, there is a more uncomfortable aspect of the analogy with the railways. Some stations were left unstaffed. What was that about distance learning?

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