Schools hit by falling rolls survive - for now

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Four primary schools in Salford were given a stay of execution this week because of disagreements about how drastically their pupil numbers will fall.

Like other councils across England and Wales, Salford fears it could waste millions of pounds on unused school places as birth rates drop.

Councillors voted last month to shut Tootal Drive, Seedly, Langworthy Road and St Luke's Church of England schools and replace them with one, new pound;6 million primary in the Seedly area of the city by 2009.

The decision was part of a wider drive which the authority started six years ago to rid itself of more than 1,700 surplus primary places, which has already lead it to close 13 schools and open five.

But members of the council's children's services scrutiny committee this week demanded that the council's ruling cabinet reconsider the plan, partly because their projected pupil numbers seemed too pessimistic.

The watchdog warned that regeneration in the areas surrounding the existing schools could increase the number of children and mean that a single school would be too small by 2010. It also said that fewer families with young children would move to the areas if they did not have primary schools.

The re-think was welcomed by parent Lynn Rider, who has been campaigning against the closure of Tootal Drive primary, which is attended by her two children, Elisha, aged six, and Jake, 10.

Mrs Rider said: "I am going to keep fighting the closure even if I have to tie myself up outside the school gates.

"It is a good school, it has been in our community for years, and closing it will be unfair on the children. If they replace four schools with one there won't be enough room."

A spokesman for Salford council said further public consultation was needed to improve the plans for the new school. However, he said it remained likely that the four primaries would close.

More than 2,200 state schools in England have shut during the past eight years, the vast majority of which were primary schools.

The Government is unable to state how many schools have closed as a result of the decline in the number of pupils, although falling rolls are likely to be a factor in most closures.

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