Bishop calls for joined-up government thinking on Britain's rural areas

A Church of England bishop has called for the government to introduce a joined-up rural strategy, saying current measures to protect schools were 'insufficient'.

Britain needs a joined-up strategy for the countryside, says Rt Rev Stephen Conway.Pixabay

Stephen Conway, Bishop of Ely, is the CofE's lead bishop for education. His comments came following a consultation at Lambeth Palace attended by Lord Agnew, parliamentary under secretary of state for the school system, with representatives from Ofsted, the NFU and the Prince's Countryside Fund together with council and education leaders from across England.

Conway said: 'We have been reassured that the Government has a presumption against the closure of rural schools, which is a positive foundation for the future.

'We have also heard from a number of stakeholder organisations, as well as those who are working with schools and communities across the country, who are exploring innovations in collaboration and the use of new technologies to improve pupil outcomes.

'However, it is clear that these steps alone are insufficient, and an overarching rural strategy is now required for the issues facing our countryside communities to be seen together.'

Arguing that schools could not be seen in isolation from wider issues, he said: 'Such an approach is needed not only to give longer-term stability to our education provision, but for housing, infrastructure, broadband, agriculture, business and industry to be seen in the same lens.'

He said the countryside was 'not uniform, and requires a joined-up approach to give its communities the opportunity to thrive for generations to come. We are committed to working with the Government to achieve this.'