Rural primary schools are under threat, say campaigners, after it emerged that 219 schools with fewer than 100 pupils had shut since 1997, with about a third being in the countryside. There are now 2,605 schools with less than 100 pupils.

Primary schools with fewer than 300 pupils has fallen from 14,182 to 12,975, while primary schools with more than 400 pupils have risen in number from 1,450 to 1,886 in the same period.

Jim Knight, the Government’s schools minister, is apparently writing to rural councils to remind them that popular schools should be preserved as a ‘top priority’. He also says that the closure rate of rural schools has fallen under Labour from 30 a year in the early 1990s to seven a year now.

Protests are currently underway this morning outside Shirehall in Shropshire, however, after it was announced that 38 primary schools face closure or are merging in 2009. The public consultation begins on 4 February.

Campaigners say that rural schools are under threat, with 219 schools with fewer than 100 pupils closing since 1997.

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