Community celebrations as council throws lifeline to school

This story was published 1 May 2019

North Yorkshire’s senior councillors today agreed to halt the closure process of one of the county’s small rural schools after considering a rescue plan by a community action group.

councillor and campaigners at County Hall

Following today’s decision at a special executive meeting to discuss the community response to the closure proposals Cllr Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills said: “Consulting on the closure of Clapham Church of England Primary School has touched upon some very significant matters about how children are thriving there and has galvanised governors and the community to put forward a viable action plan – congratulations to all involved.”

The council has agreed to delay a decision on Clapham primary after significant community feedback and new proposals which it’s hoped will offer it a sustainable future were raised. 

Evidence relating to increased pupil forecasts associated with new housing opportunities in the village was put before the Executive. Improved financial forecasts relating to that and new leadership options for the school form the community’s new action plan.

Numbers of children attending Clapham primary have fallen in recent years from 42 in 2014/15 to the current 28, and further reductions had been predicted. The fall in numbers, combined with financial pressures and an inability to secure a substantive headteacher, had brought into question the sustainability of the school and had led to a consultation on closure.   It was this process which prompted a huge community reaction and what it’s now hoped will become a sustainable plan for its future.

At the meeting at County Hall this morning (April 30) Iain Crossley, Chair, Community Action Group for Clapham C of E Primary School said the community felt listened to: “We have and will continue to raise money for the school. We have and will continue to give of our time and expertise: to provide wraparound care, to share knowledge, skills and advice when problems seem too much. These are not the acts of a wealthy, privileged area; rather they’re what a farming community does. When part of our community goes through a tough patch we come together, we help and, above all, we protect a vital asset.”

Local elected member, Cllr David Ireton also thanked officers and the executive members at the council for listening: “You have given everyone the time and respect to get their point of view over. I am here to support the governors and the action group to keep the school open and I am very pleased they will now have the opportunity to turn the school around.”  

Following the decision to stop the closure process Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire’s Corporate Director for the Children and Young People’s Service said: “We have more small rural schools with 50 or fewer pupils than any other county in England and we are committed to supporting them whenever we can – today is further evidence of that.

“This consultation process has delivered new ideas and evidence of increased housing development and initiatives to bring more families into the area that look set to raise pupil numbers across the school. That is critical to attract the Government funds needed to help sustain Clapham’s future. There will be challenges ahead but I really hope this is a turning point for the school which is clearly a very much loved community asset.”

Reverend John Davies, Foundation Governor, on behalf of the Board of Governors at Clapham said: “The Governors found that opening the door to consult on closure created some rare and

  • important opportunities, which we have embraced:
  • The opportunity to think about the school in new and creative ways;
  • The opportunity to involve the community, harnessing their skills, energy, and enthusiastic
  • support;
  • And most of all, the opportunity to develop a vision for the successful future of Clapham
  • Primary School.”

The newly formed Clapham School Action Group is run by volunteers who will seek to work alongside the governing body to look at new ways in which the community can support the school. 

The Action Group also secured a commitment from the Ingleborough Estate, which is landlord to a large number of houses in Clapham, to provide additional low cost rented housing to families with young children.  It has also established the Clapham Education Trust with the aim of making donations so that the school’s cumulative deficit does not increase and would gradually recover.