Rural schools hindered by unique challenges

According to new research by The Key, schools in rural communities across England are struggling to cope under the pressure of challenges unique to their location. Education Executive reports.

Just over two thirds (67%) of the rural school head teachers surveyed reported that their small budget, which is linked to low pupil numbers, negatively affects how they can run the school.

Budgets are affected further by location factors beyond the headteachers’ control, including high salaries for staff with much-needed experience, high transportation costs for pupils and “rural poverty”.

Due to the natural beauty of many of these locations, a lot of ‘local’ families are priced out of the area by retirees and second homers. As a result, 38% of rural heads surveyed have pupils on roll who have to travel as far as 10 miles to get to school. Budgets are being impacted further as a result of transportation costs to facilitate this.

Putting further strain on the budget, nearly half (48%) of those surveyed described their staff body as “very experienced (10+ years of teaching)”. This means high salary costs. Rural school heads find their teachers stay in post for a long time, usually having relocated to the area.

However, with low pupil numbers, nearly half (45%) of survey respondents reported that all classes in their school are mixed-age. A further 24% have “some” mixed-age classes. This makes recruiting newly-qualified teachers even more difficult, as they do not have the experience needed to support this kind of set-up.

One rural head said: “Experience is important for teaching across year groups. NQTs need to be exceptional to succeed at a school like this – we don’t have the capacity to support them in the way a bigger school would.”

Read more Rural schools hindered by unique challenges

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