Owen's letter to North Shropshire Schools

In recent years I have visited every single primary school in North Shropshire, some of them several times. Shropshire County Council raised the problem of school finance with me and other MPs in the autumn of 2007; we had a number of meetings. I established that the problem rests with the distribution of general taxation funds back from Whitehall to Shropshire. A Shropshire child receives £3,551 out of general taxation yet a child in the City of London receives £7,089. If Shropshire received the funding of an average local authority there would be £13.23million more to spend on Shropshire’s children. If Shropshire received the same as Ealing, which has an almost identical number of children, it would get £42,486,428 extra. The Council made it clear that their proposed solution to the funding deficit caused by potential falling school rolls was to close a number of primary schools. I was so concerned by this that I secured an Adjournment Debate in which I invited other Shropshire MPs to participate. I enclose a copy of this debate which resulted in an invitation to meet Jim Knight MP, the Schools Minister, at 6.15pm tonight. Last week the County Council announced a list of schools intended for closure; this included nine schools across North Shropshire. I was shocked by the schools named on this list. I expected a number of very small, costly rural schools to be named. I never imagined that Adderley, Cheswardine, Maesbury, Moreton Say, Myddle, Selattyn, Tilstock, Welshampton and Weston Lullingfields would be threatened. I will be telling the Minister that this list is completely unacceptable. I have written to the head teacher of every school asking if I can visit as soon as possible to meet governors, staff and parents. On Friday I visited Selattyn, Maesbury and Myddle. At each school I found basic errors in the County Council’s document. Parents also told me that many of the proposed alternatives are not suitable or are unworkable. I was delighted that this morning, Shropshire County Council announced that it has cancelled the programme to close schools. It will continue with the consultation on the amalgamation of 16 schools and I will explain to the Minister tonight that these amalgamations will deliver significant savings. I will stress to him that the opposition to school closures has been unprecedented and he must help the council in other ways.