BBC Countryfile discusses rural schools with Bishop Jonathan

BBC Countryfile came from the Dales this month as it looked at the pressures faced by rural schools and included an interview with Bishop Jonathan Gibbs, who has the education brief for the diocese.

Presenter Tom Heap(pictured left) referred to how falling pupil numbers and financial constraints had led to the closure of more than 50 rural schools across England in the last five years.

He said this was despite the Government's stated policy being to support rural schools.

Countryfile's figures were that due to a funding imbalance children in rural schools receive 34 per cent less funding than city pupils.

And the programme also claimed the average annual costs of weekly transport to and from school were: £10 in cities, £93 in rural and a huge £207 in the Dales.

Referring to the Church of England's report into rural and small schools, titled Embracing Change, Mr Heap said it recognised it was difficult to justify keeping some open and also called on schools and communities to work together.

He asked Bishop Jonathan to comment on the closure of rural schools, saying great number were CofE schools.

"Couldn't you prevent this, are you part of the problem?" he asked.

Bishop Jonathan replied: "Our diocesan budget for schools £1 million out of a £25 million budget - so we are investing a considerable amount.

"But the money to pay for education itself - that's government funding.

"We need to push that further and I'm trying to encourage my fellow bishops that we should think about how we can work together with our coleagues in local and national government to address these issues." Bishop Jonathan said.

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