The Value of Small Rural Infant Schools

There are plenty of young children in and around Combs who are waiting to take their rightful place in the infant school in the valley where they were born. There are expectant mothers. There are houses for sale which may be filled with families with young children. There are people nearby who seek the nurturing, peaceful, beautiful environment of Combs as the place where their little ones begin their educational life amongst a group of children their own age in a safe, secure environment. It could not be a better start.

Instead of shutting down small rural infant schools like this, Derbyshire County Council – and Councils across Britain – should be actively promoting their continuance. After all, that was what the protection fund for small rural schools was all about in the first place, wasn’t it? And when that school delivers the educational goods while not even spending all of the money it is given, then surely there is something wrong with the system, not the school? Our children should not be paying the price for formula funding that clearly needs to be looked at again.

If there is inequity of provision in the county of Derbyshire the blame lies with the people who devised the formula. Surely it would make more sense to revise this before they go round shutting down small rural schools like Combs whose only sin is to serve their community by providing excellent all-round education and superb value for money. As globalisation comes a cropper and the business world starts to understand that big is not always beautiful, Combs Infant School is a model for the way in which smaller entities can be better managed, better controlled and therefore produce the goods more efficiently and consistently than their larger counterparts.

Combs Infant School is the ONLY infant school in the area – let alone the only small, rural, non-denominational infant school. With children starting school so young in this country compared to our European (and American) brethren, an infant school provides these young children with an environment which does not scare them. There are not hoards of older children to intimidate them. They do not get lost at the back of a large class. They grow, they thrive in this environment. They get the very best start with secure literacy and numeracy skills (a government core objective) and the confidence to move on easily to the next stage of their learning. This is an active choice for many parents.

In a democracy, we should not have that choice so casually taken away. And the Exchequer should be reminded that social and educational failure amongst the young is very expensive…Alistair Darling, are you listening?