Call for a rural four-day week

12th May 2000 at 01:00
FOUR-DAY weeks for pupils in rural schools could reduce the slog of travelling and cut the cost of small schools, according to the Local Government Association, writes Julie Henry.

The LGA's working group report into rural education says computers could revolutionise how children are taught.

Dave Wilcox, education finance chair, said: "We want the Government to question the requirement that every child attends school every day, with the focus on outputs rather than on school hours.

"It could be that we move towards a four-day week with children working from home or from local facilities such as playgroups, communicating with the teacher on-line. In many ways it makes environmental, social and educational sense."

The report outlines how transport costs in remote areas are starving rural schools of millions of pounds of vital funding. Lincolnshire spends pound;14 million of the pound;274m education budget ferrying children to school.

Opening school buildings to the community is recommended to put schools at the heart of village life and attracting funding from other avenues such as the lottery, the Sports Council and Europe.

The LGA is askng authorities to encourage federations and clusters of schools to share facilities and develop economies of scale.

This week the Government announced that where schools form federations, they will be protected by the same presumption against closure that applies to stand-alone small schools.

Jacqui Smith, education minister, said: "Rural schools are often the lifeblood of local communities. In the case of village schools, we are right to put the village before the planner."

The decision on closures is now in the hands of Local School Organisation Committees. In cases where the committee can not decide on proposals unanimously, an independent schools adjudicator will rule.

Technology is making learning more exciting and will transform classrooms, a Government report, Towards the classroom of the future, predicts.

However, while computers are a potent teaching tool, they will not replace teachers, assured Michael Wills, the learning and technology minister. "There will always be a need for what only human beings can do," he said.

A discussion group about the classroom of the future is at: www.futureclass.ngfl.gov.uk


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