Stiperstones parents angry with Philip Dunne MP

A Shropshire MP has incurred the wrath of parents and staff at a county school threatened with the axe over comments he made claiming at some point a school may become "too small" to offer a good education.

A Shropshire MP has incurred the wrath of parents and staff at a county school threatened with the axe over comments he made claiming at some point a school may become "too small" to offer a good education.

Furious parents who are fighting to save Stiperstones C of E Primary School, near Shrewsbury, today demanded an explanation from Philip Dunne, MP for Ludlow, over the statement made during an interview on BBC Midlands Today.

In the interview on the regional news programme, Mr Dunne said: "There comes a point when a school becomes too small to provide the quality of education that we all want for our children."

Sue Cooke, headteacher of Stiperstones School, which has just 29 pupils, said the entire school community was shocked by Mr Dunne's comments and claimed he did not understand the important role played by rural schools.

Mr Dunne today said he stood by his comments but claimed he was not referring to Stiperstones School and vowed to back parents and staff in their fight to keep it open.

In a letter to Mr Dunne, Faye Moore, a parent and ex-pupil of the school, said she was outraged at his statement.

She said: "Stiperstones School has been judged 'good' by Ofsted and therefore contradicts your statement that the quality of education is not what we want for our children.

"As a parent of two children who attend Stiperstones School and one who is due to start at the pre-school I must state that this is the quality of education I want for my children.

"The quality of education at Stiperstones School is absolutely outstanding and both my children are currently above average with their education. This is down to the outstanding teaching staff and teaching assistants at the school."

In another letter to the Tory MP, Alicia James, who grew up in Snailbeach and attended the school, added: "Do you truly understand the history and context of this extraordinary community focused primary school?"

Mr Dunne today said: "They seem to have misinterpreted what I said as I have made no specific reference to Stiperstones School."

The MP said he believed the school provided a good education and should not be closed.

By Russell Roberts

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Comments for: "Stiperstones parents angry with Philip Dunne MP"


Mr Dunne's comment that

“There comes a point when a school becomes too small to provide the quality of education that we all want for our children.”

is logical and sensible -

A school of 29 does seem to be on the small side, but even if it stays open, the question HAS to be asked, how many pupils make up a school? 20? 15? 10? A school in Stafford is closing now that there are only 6 pupils on the roll.

Ofsted is very much a box ticking exercise these days - but settting that aside, what kind of experience does a cohort of 29 children get, and what happens when they face the cultural shock of having to leave to go to a bigger secondary school?

We must also remember that for at least a decade pupils at the larger schools in Shropshire have been undervalued since each brings in £2000 compared to some smaller schools where each pupil brings in up to £8,000. Is it fair that schools in the more urban areas are penalised to maintain very small schools?

R Edwards

Please site examples of where urban schools have been penalised to maintain small schools?

It is very difficult but our school roll is going up there are more than 29 as of January 2011. More children are due to start. This is a small rural community, miles away from alternative church of england schools.

Our children become well balanced individuals capable of anything that people throw at them as they know about community spirit and helping each other. This is lost in large schools with large class sizes and I went to a school where it was total chaos and no one learned anything due to teachers not being able to cope with large classrooms of unruly, bad mannered children with no respect for others. At least my child will be taught the way I want him to be taught, in a school that is pupil orientated with a good ofsted report and above average maths and english stats.

Any child going from primary to secondary school will get a culture shock regardless of class size.

Stipestones School Supporter

I do not see how this comment is either logical or sensible. It is not simply a matter of funding but a matter of education!!!! Stiperstones School may only have 29 children but numbers are on the increase. I certainly do not think that becuase it is a small school that it impacts badly on their education. Surely a in smaller class sizes the pupils get more attention than those in a class of 30 or more. Children in this school receive a fabulous education and with a good OFSTED report and children achieving above average - isn't this what is most important in edcation?

When they leave to go to Secondary School they are only building on their life experiences and are able to share with others the amazing support and education they have already received.

You clearly have no idea what you are talking about other than thinking of the financial implications!!!!!


I don't seem to remember facing a culture shock when I entered the Mary Webb Secondary School, maybe this was because the school environment in which I grew taught me to conduct myself in an appropriate manner also the fact that I had true friends by my side and also friends from my school in the years above this is because in a small school you make true friends for life not just people you regard as class mates.

As to the size of a school does that really matter as long as our children are learning and growing into responsible,respectful teenagers surely that is what society requires unlike the larger school where a child who may need just that little bit of attention but can not receive it because he/she becomes a number in a class instead of a name and a person, these are the teenagers who end up on our streets because the education system can not cope with them how is that any good to society.


I'm not sure you understand how a school ties a community together. and it is a small shock for anyone going up to secondary school becuase it is a CHANGE, The size of the school doesn't effect that, I went to a primary school as small as Stiperstones, and going up to primary school was more of a shock because the timetable was completely different, not becuase it was larger!

Graham Carter

It's generally accepted that smaller class sizes = better education, but all of these teachers are paid by Shropshire LEA.

Average class sizes in Shropshire must be 30+, so that means to make financial sense Shropshire LEA would be paying just 1 teacher + a TA for these 29 kids.

How good an education can 29 children across all the primary year groups receive from 1 teacher? Answer: Not a great one.

Even if Shropshire LEA pushed the boat out and employed 1 teacher for each key stage I'd question how well the children would be served by this (although I haven't seen this in practice) + it's costing the council double the money per child educated.

We could argue it more convincingly from the financial point of view: Building upkeep costs, head teachers (think about it per student), caretakers, canteen workers etc etc.

I'm sure it's a lovely school, and I'm not arguing for its closure - I'm just looking at it from a practical point of view. Stiperstones and Snailbeach children have Minsterley just 5 minutes down the road with a good public transport service on that route already. The extra money that Stiperstones school could save (+ it's in a lovely location for redevelopment as a couple of houses) could make a real difference to the quality of education that Minsterley school can offer.

The saved money from Stiperstones would have to go straight to Minsterley, mind you and not spread thin across the thousands of Shropshire schools - that would see no improvement in education for ANY children in Shropshire, let alone for these Stiperstones kids.

OK - it does sound like I'm arguing for the closure of the school. I'm really not, I'm just struggling to find too many advantages to keeping it open!

a parent

Actually I think Philip Dunne's comment that Stiperstones school "provides good quality education and should not be closed" is far more "logical and sensible".

I was educated in Stiperstones school with similar numbers of pupils back in the eighties and going to secondary school (with over 600 pupils) was not a big culture shock because both the local secondary schools are also rural, accepting pupils from many of these small schools.

People who have never lived in such a rural community must find it difficult to comprehend the importance of such a school it is the lifeblood of our villages.

Rachel Roberts

I am sorry, but where do you get your facts from????! I am a teacher and I know for a fact that children at Stiperstones do not get £8,000 each!! I wish they did. They get exactly the same as any other child in a Shropshire school, be it a school of 400 or a school of 29.

The children at the Stiperstones get massive opportunities. A creative curriculum is delivered which takes into account the backgrounds of the children and education for a purpose. Infact they get far more opportunties than a lot of pupils.You can say it doesn't provide them with knowledge of the wider world, if knowledge of the wider world is seeing and being part of things that aren't relevant to the childrens backgrounds then what isgood about that? Parents at Stiperstones live in that communitybecause they want their children to hold values that are improtant to the environment and community they live in.

It is a common misconception that these children then have problems when entering the wider world at secondary school, they do not. They have strong principals within them and strong values, which make them into strong people who know right for worng. They achieve highly through secondary school and through university.

Your facts are totally unsubstantiated. £8,000 a pupil, if only!! The Stiperstones would be a school with 5 * facilitlies!!

It is a school with 5 * education, but that is not due to money, that is due to community support, fantastic children and a staff who are a strong and commited team.

Finally if anyone thinks Stiperstones has £8,000 per pupil then ask for the facts, you will see that what I am saying is FACT!

Rachel Roberts

£8,000 per child in small rural schools, if only!! Where have you got your facts from. I can tell you that children in small rural schools are funded exactly the same amount as in larger schools. I can also tell you that that amount isn't £2,000 either. Please get your facts right before you make comments.

Rachael Edwards

Well said Rachel and anon. I agree that Stiperstones children are well mannered and well balanced children, respectful of others within the community. I have NEVER EVER lived anywhere like Stiperstones where people actually stop and talk to you in the street and treat you as family.

I am PROUD to be a part of this community. All beit a new part but I feel like I have lived here for years.

I think Smaller schools are our future not our past and more money must be put into education on a whole.

We as a community do alot for our school. The teachers are always at school! Even long after the school bell rings. The staff are dedicated to their jobs and obviously the children who could ask for more as a parent that people actually care for your children and they are an individual and not just a number!

Rachel Roberts

I would like to reply to Graham. It would seem that you have no understanding of what rural schools are all about. That is fair enough, I admit that before being involved with Stiperstones I didn't understand them either. I had taught in a very large school in the centre of Rhyl, a large school in Telford and then a larger village school in Shropshire. I have seen teaching from all perspectives. Until you are part of a rural school it is very difficult to appreciate the fantastic level of education that it provides. Yes in a larger school you may have class sizes of 30+ but you then have far more teaching assistants, you also have higher paid teachers who are in management roles, as well as coordinators who are paid above a normal teachers wage. Larger schools have numerous kitchen staff, a caretaker, more administrators. We don't have these at Stiperstones, yes we have two classes, however one of those is taught by the Head for 4 days a week. There is no deputy head to be paid, we do have teaching assistants but a lot of their hours are voluntary and are unpaid. We only have one cook and one administrator post, therefore the school is not costing a lot of money. No one gets paid coordinators extra pay. I would suggest you look into how small schools are run so that you understand it more.

In response to mixed age classes they actually work really well. Within a class which has one year group work has to be differentiated to cater for different levels, just as we differentiate for our children. The children bounce ideas off each other. Younger children learning from the older children and older children learning from the free thinking and spirited nature of younger children.

To say that it would make a good site for two houses is such a sad statement. The building is the heart of the community. The building is a piece of history. I don;t see buildings that cost money being knocked down by the government in London. We should be conserving our history. Without it is impossible for all buildings to have a low carbon footprint. What should be looked into is making the building as eco-friednly as possible. That would be a fantastic project for the children and community to be involved in.Withouthe school the community will die. I know of several families who have moved there just for the school. If the school wasn't there then they wouldn't have moved there.

I was an outsider to the community as I live in Shrewsbury, however I have embraced evrything about the Stiperstones community and they have been more than welcoming to me. It isn't just a case of saying it is a nice community and a nice school. It is a piece of history which contiues to deliver a high level of education. Therefore it should remain there for years to come. I hope this helps you to have a better understanding of the situation.

Adrian Pearce

I was born in a small rural community in Norfolk and went to a small village school until I was 7. My parents then moved to a town and I transferred to a large modern ptimary school. On the first day there the teacher was shocked to find that I could write as the rest of the class was still printing letters! I was made to go back to printing and the rest of the class did not learn to write until a year after. So Phillip Dunne do not talk about small village schools not giving quality education - the opposite actually applies!

For some reason, successive governments seem to have declared war on rural villages. First it was the post offices that closed. Then comes schools, bus services, pubs until all that is left are houses. These get bought up as country cottages by rich city dwellers and the cost of housing forces young familiies out. Soon you are left with an old temporary population.

It is the young people that make a village vibrant and closing the Stiperstones School would have a terrible effect on what is a superb community. Sometimes you have to stop counting beans and think what is best for all of our futures.

I could go on about the billions wasted on Blair's foreign wars but it would just depress me. Just think what we could do with all that money! Not only would it save our schools but also allow them to be modernised.

I wish good luck to the campaign to keep it open.

Rachel Roberts

Here, here Adrian. You are bang on there!

Avi Curley

In support of Stiperstones School...I chose to put my child in this School because of the quality standard of education and family community involvement already enjoyed by generations of children....the Adults I know who were educated there previously are well balanced high achievers with a healthy respect for their environment and the people in it.

A Governor

In 2010/11 Shropshire County Council spent (after central costs) an average of £3,554/primary pupil. Stiperstones (31 on role) received £5,814/pupil, St Giles CoE (332 on role) £2,881/pupil. Stiperstones is clearly subsidised by funds transfer. Money is taken from schools with full roles to fund schools with surplus capacity (big or small). In the past five years the number of children in Shropshire has fallen by 2,500 (most of that fall in rural areas). As central government provides about £4,000/child that is a £10m hole in Shropshire's education budget. In South Shropshire the U15 population is expected to continue falling until 2030. It is one of the 10 "oldest" areas of the UK. (Ageing in the UK website)

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