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DAILY POST YOUR VOICE IN WALES: No time for cynicism over schools.

F EDERALISATION may be a cold, ungainly, unattractive word suggestive of central control and bureaucracy, but if it means small rural schools can remain open as opposed to being shut and shuttered, we must look beyond the forbidding title.

At its best, in federalising schools, a local authority is really only managing its resources as efficiently as possible. Small schools do not need - and cannot today afford - to duplicate teaching and admin staff. It makes perfect sense to group small schools together under an "umbrella" management. Or, if you prefer, co-operative.

Why then should anyone who vehemently opposes school closures and the associated decline in communities and culture resist such a move?

Plaid Cymru backs the move: It is light where no light previously existed. The Schools and Supporters Alliance which represents parents and governing bodies broadly supports it while rightly wanting to explore all possible options and models to ensure the best is the one chosen.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith appears to welcome it insofar as the move to federalise has been suspended while such models are explored and Assembly Government guidelines awaited. And this newspaper, which has always recommended federalisation as a solution to closure, must naturally applaud it too.

If everyone is saying what they mean there should not be a problem. The problems will come if anyone is found to have been speaking with forked tongue - and is simply putting off announcing foregone decisions to close schools until after the May council elections - a tactic requiring a Promethean leap of profound cynicism for which there is no current evidence.

It is deeply unfortunate that the timing of this delay corresponds with elections, but to reject the promise of federalisation simply on the basis that neither councillors nor Assembly can be trusted not to shut schools after a period of bogus consultation is just not an option.

Besides, what is the alternative if not closures?

We have great sympathy with parents who cannot yet plan for the future. We cannot see why the Assembly Government needs so long to formulate merger guidelines. But if the result is the survival of small rural schools with a greater degree of autonomy than federalism generally allows, then this has to be a victory.

And if it doesn't then those responsible will be best advised never to set foot in this county a gain.
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Title Annotation:Leaders
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 18, 2008
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