Consultation to take place on closure of Dales school with ten pupils

Governors of a North Yorkshire primary school have voted to consult on its closure, after a long battle to keep the school viable.

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Following a meeting last week, the governors of Clapham Church of England Primary School have asked North Yorkshire County Council to launch a public consultation into the closure of the Dales school, which currently has ten pupils. From September 2020, that number is expected to reduce to just six.

On Monday (November 11), school governors met with staff and parents to explain the challenges in ensuring the school remains sustainable. 

They explained the school was facing multiple pressures. Earlier this year Clapham CE Primary School was rated inadequate following an Ofsted inspection and is also facing severe financial pressures, with a predicted deficit of more than £250,000 and an unforeseen and rapid decline of pupil numbers.

Governors said the school’s Headteacher and teaching staff were making the changes needed to come out of special measures, but the school was simply no longer viable. The Ofsted rating - coupled with the six-figure deficit – meant it unlikely a school or academy sponsor would be willing to enter into a potential partnership. 

The school’s acting Chair of Governors, Janet Booth, said: “While parents will be aware of the considerable pressures facing the school, the Governing Board did not make this decision lightly.

“After battling for some time to secure a future for Clapham primary, we feel we have now exhausted all avenues and are faced with no option but to consult on the closure of the school.

“We have made this decision with heavy hearts, but we feel the situation has reached a point where the pupils’ best interests will be best served by finding alternative provision.

“The Governors wish to put on record their gratitude to the staff and parents of pupils who remained at the school for their commitment and thank the community for its support. We share their sadness that the recovery - which looked so encouraging just a few weeks ago - has fallen away.”

They are backing plans for a new set of governors with experience of special measures to be put in place to take the school through the next two and a half terms to the end of the academic year.

Last April, a recovery plan presented by the Governing Body, and supported by the community, was put into place with the support of North Yorkshire County Council. 

It attempted to place the school on a viable footing by reintroducing early years provision, wraparound care and a recovery in standards, but with a cluster of good primary schools nearby, increasing pupil numbers proved difficult.

The County Council is expected to consider the request for consultation during December and, if approved, a public consultation would commence early next year.

Director of Children and Young People’s Service, Stuart Carlton, said the decision was very sad, but taken in the best interests of the school’s current children.

He said: “We know village schools play an incredibly important role in communities and will always go the extra mile to keep them going. North Yorkshire has more small schools than any other authority in England and more than 50 schools with fewer than 50 pupils.

“But with a severe budget deficit and a recent Ofsted judgement which placed it in special measures, finding a willing sponsor to secure the school’s long-term future is extremely unlikely. We have to consider whether, in the circumstances, keeping this school open serves the best interests of local children, hence we will be consulting over its closure.

“Should the consultation be approved there will be opportunity for stakeholders to express their views on the overall situation as part of the required process and before any final decision is taken.”

This story was published 12 November 2019