RURAL Cotswold schools fear they could be at risk following a decision to expand and move a Cirencester primary school.

Gloucestershire County Council has agreed to relocate Watermoor Primary School to Kingshill and increase pupil numbers by 50 per cent to 210 places by September 2016.

The project, to be completed by September 2014, will cater for additional families moving into new estates in the area and will be part-funded by developers.

Governors at Ampney Crucis Primary School said the move could have an impact on the future financial viability of rural schools in the area.

All state schools receive government funding per pupil and several rural schools already have spare places available.

Ampney Crucis Primary School has 30 per cent of its 84 pupils coming in from the Beeches and Cirencester area and a significant drop in numbers could put the school in a "critical" position.

Chairman of Ampney Crucis governors, Andrew Lazenby, said there was already around 175 surplus primary spaces across the local area and building a bigger school at Kingshill, which would create even more spaces, made no sense.

"We’re doing really well here and haven’t got any surplus spaces at the moment, but who knows in the future," he said. "About five years ago we dipped in numbers to the late 50s and we had to lose a teacher.

"Rural schools have a really tight budget. When numbers drop you have to look at restructuring your staff and classes and that can impact on the level of teaching."

Mr Lazenby said primary schools were a key part of local communities and the loss of a school would not only impact on children, but people who used the facility and worked there.

He added: "We were disappointed with the council’s decision. I don’t think they listened to the points that we made. It seems they’d got their money and they’d made their mind up to spend it."

During the consultation process, several Ampney Crucis parents voiced their concerns over the proposal and the impact it could have on all rural schools in the area.

Tony Wells, commissioning manager at Gloucestershire County Council said: “When the new Watermoor School building opens in September 2014, the increase in its admission number will be phased. This will ensure that the number of school places available is kept in line with demand from families moving into the new housing development and will help protect other schools in the area.

"There are surplus primary school places in the area, but these are not in the part of Cirencester where the new housing is being built. Parents will still have the right  to apply for a place at any school and they will continue to have choice between town and rural schools in the area.

"All representations received during the consultation period, including the submission from Ampney Crucis school, were included in the reports to Cabinet and were fully considered before the final decision was taken to proceed with the expansion and relocation of Watermoor School.”