Clapham takes action with can-do leadership

A fully developed action plan is now in place for Clapham Church of England Primary School in Craven which heralds a can-do culture for the village school.

A fully developed action plan is now in place for Clapham Church of England Primary School in Craven which heralds a can-do culture for the village school. File picture.

The village community rallied around the school last spring after it faced closure due to a fall in numbers. A community action group was established to pursue a sustainable future for the school.

North Yorkshire County Council has been working hard together with the action group, staff, governors, and the Diocese over the summer to bring in new leadership and teaching staff to take Clapham primary forward into the new academic year.  This follows the school being placed in special measures following an Ofsted inspection last June.

Inspectors found that although the school has real strengths in music and sport and there is a passion for connecting pupils with the cultural and farming heritage of the Yorkshire Dales and enriching the curriculum with first-hand experiences, instability in leadership, staffing turbulence and consultation on closure over the last year had taken their toll.

Nevertheless there is optimism from all parties that the school is finally on the right track.

The County Council has brokered leadership arrangements with the Priestley Academy Trust and brought in an executive head teacher, Mathew Atkinson, who is current head at Westbourne Primary School in Bradford and a Local Leader of Education.  He is experienced in working in small rural schools and leading schools out of special measures.  He will direct developments at Clapham with the support of a new Head of School, Adam Kay, who has been seconded from his post as Deputy Head at Westbourne.

The County Council has also appointed two new full-time teachers to Clapham and the governing body has been reconstituted.

“Considerable investment and energy has been expended in setting up these arrangements in recent months which we believe will take the school forward to provide the high quality teaching and learning we want for all our children,” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills.

“The County Council is committed to the sustainability of North Yorkshire’s rural communities and to supporting its village schools whenever possible – proven by the fact we have more small rural schools with 50 or fewer pupils than any other county in England.   But we must ensure that our schools provide the best education possible whatever their size, so in Clapham we are all pulling together to that end.”

Marilyn Galpin, Clapham’s acting chair of governors said: “The new leadership has been working very effectively with Governors over the summer break and has reached out to the community action group for help in several areas.  The leadership has a genuine, can-do attitude and this has reinvigorated support from the community.”

Mathew Atkinson, Clapham’s executive head stated in a letter to families: “Governors, together with the local authority and the Diocese had already identified many of the areas that Ofsted has highlighted as areas for improvement…. Staff care deeply about the pupils and families of Clapham Church of England Primary School and we will work together to ensure that children receive the high-quality education that they deserve and that all children are supported to reach their potential.  We hope that you, as parents and carers, will continue to support us with this aim.”

The County Council will now work with the Diocese and the Regional Schools Commissioner over the next year to explore arrangements for the school into the long-term.

“The Ofsted judgement is obviously disappointing and finding the right path is vital for a sustainable future,” said Richard Noake, Diocesan Director of Education.

Zoe Richardson, Chair of the Friends of Clapham School said: “Parents of children at the school see the OFSTED findings as drawing a line under the past challenges and pointing a way forward. The report on the school last year does not come as a surprise; we were told the school was no longer outstanding when it was threatened with closure and recognise the challenges small rural schools face.

“We now expect the Governors, the new school leadership and the local authority to bring about the improvements that OFSTED calls for. The school has already made many positive changes since the inspection and we see the report as a route-map for the school to return to its former strength.”

This story was published 11 September 2019