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article imageWhen Bigger Means Better - Welsh Children's Education Improves In Larger Schools

By Michelle Duffy     Nov 7, 2007 in World
A strange, but new revelation is sweeping the little country of Wales - children suffering school closures are finding it seemingly beneficial to their education. Why? Because standards are rising when small schools close to make way for bigger ones
We would think that the overall quality of the education our children were receiving would be greater if the classrooms were smaller, and we would be right, but this is far from the case in Wales.
According to the Institute of Welsh Affairs (or better known as the IWA) the general standard of learning has significantly improved when children in the region have moved from smaller schools when they close, to bigger ones.
There have been many small, village type schools close in recent years in Wales simply because there were not enough children in the area to fill them.
However, despite fears that the children's learning would suffer as a result of such closures simply because the one to one teaching would fail to continue in a larger school, the result of such dramatic changes in structure for Welsh children has in fact, been the complete opposite.
A vast number of the smaller schools have closed in the areas of Powys and Pembrokeshire. Teachers, parents and pupils in both areas were interviewed and asked if they felt that their circumstances had changed for the better due to the move into a larger school. The overall results were surprisingly positive.
Yet, the downside to the new report is that not all children will naturally benefit from the reform. Certain skeptical groups against the idea of closing small schools for the sake of it are now up in arms claiming that the 'one size might not fit all'. As only two areas have seen good changes, it appears that a long list of small schools in other areas are now on the list for demolition.
The attack seems aggressive between councils and humble village schools, and this is certainly the case at Gwynedd. Here, the local Council has already named a staggering 29 small schools for closure, and that's not all, in other areas of Wales, yet more rural schools are up to get the axe.
The survey was launched when it was feared that many small and remote communities felt they could not manage to adapt to certain cultures, education and language on a larger scale - this was found, not to be true. Despite the overall feeling the many residents in smaller communities worried about the change, they were actually worrying for nothing.
Leading the project for the IWA was Professor David Reynolds, he told BBC News,
"It is clear that the apocalyptic predictions about the impact of small school closures on the Welsh language and communities are not borne out by our sample," said Professor David Reynolds, who led the project. No parent or child thought the position of the language was worse after reorganisation. This is an extraordinary finding given the public debate on this issue."
Yet the actual results certainly showed a vast improvement, where percentages rose dramatically in all areas of education quality, standards, enhancement of the language and social factors.
The report stated,
"There are many examples within Wales of strong, vital, connected communities that have no local school at all. It is the people not a school building who surely create a community."
However, one worried parent, in particular, Mr Jeff Green, was far from in agreement with the new report. He, like many parents have tirelessly campaigned to keep his local, yet rural school open. He said,
"The village has one pub, one restaurant, a post office and a school, and the school really is the life blood of the place. If that closes then the post office will probably close too."
Yet for the more cynical parent, it would seem that this particular view was already covered. The report said,
".....This may lead us to be over anxious to hold onto what remains of the past, even though it may involve a 100-year-old school which is now unfit for purpose. The needs of children - not their parents, communities or any other public interests - should be considered above all others."
A shame - when historical buildings of local interest and heritage come under threat, it would appear that nothing, not even for our children's sake, is ever that safe. We can never stand in the way of progress now, can we.....?
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