15 October 1999
Schools to teach country matters

AN UNDERSTANDING of rural issues forms a major part of the revised national curriculum, a government minister said today (Friday).

Speaking at the Country Landowners Association (CLA) national conference in London, Schools Minister Jacqui Smith stressed the importance of a wide and balanced education.

She added: “Learning about the countryside and the contribution it makes to this countrys economic, political, social and cultural life is an integral part of this.”

In the new curriculum, to be introduced next September, pupils can compare town and country dwellers lives, and study a greater range of places in geography.

Secondary pupils will study national and regional identities, the work of voluntary bodies, and social and economic disparities.

Ms Smith said the government was also going to issue guidance promoting the use of schools as a community resource.

She believed this was particularly relevant to rural areas where schools were often the only sports, leisure and learning facilities available,

In Somerset and Cumbria local people were now able to take advantage of high-speed internet connections available in schools under such a scheme, she said.

In another initiative, extra funding will be made available to almost 9000 schools with fewer than 200 pupils. Many of these are in rural areas.

The minister said this will be introduced in September 2000. Details on levels of funding will be announced soon.