Research highlights the cost of duplicating rural primary provision

The Integrated Education Fund welcomes the publication of the latest briefing paper from the Ulster University UNESCO Centre, examining the cost of providing small rural schools of different sectors and setting out the cost of continuing duplication of provision.

The paper, Isolated Together: Pairs of Primary Schools Duplicating Provision, is the third in the Transforming Education series of briefing papers, whose publication is supported by the IEF and the Community Foundation NI.

Research highlights the cost of duplicating rural primary provision The paper’s authors, Dr Stephen Roulston and Dr Sally Cook, have used government data and GIS mapping to identify areas of NI where two small primary schools, in some cases below the official sustainable enrolment level, are located close together but several miles from other, similar provision. The research analyses the additional costs in maintaining these schools, and the savings in rationalising provision.

The paper is published in a year when the financial crisis in schools has grown more acute and the NI Affairs Committee recommended that “…a broad ambition for the education sector should be to consolidate the school estate…”

Commenting on the paper, IEF Chief Executive Tina Merron said
“This study is an important examination of the impact of the structure of our education system. It suggests an approach to area planning which could bring economic and social benefits. The cost analysis of duplicating local delivery in small schools highlights the need to develop a creative approach to planning, which will ultimately benefit schools throughout the system.

“However, the paper also points out that schools play a crucial role in rural communities, and working with local families and other residents to develop a way forward for education provision will be very important. We are proud to have supported the UU in developing a model for community conversation, which has been recognised as offering a mechanism for meaningful consultation during the process of planning public services in an area.”

Isolated Together: Pairs of Primary Schools Duplicating Provision can be accessed online here.

The Transforming Education project aims to illuminate some of the areas of education that contribute to both school separation and additional costs. These relate not only to policy but also to accepted practices and assumed perceptions that may have remained unchallenged for many years.