Decision taken to close Clapham primary with only seven pupils

Clapham Church of England Primary School will close at the end of this school year after a decision by North Yorkshire’s Executive councillors.

Pensils

The County Council agreed to consult on closure in December after it was approached by Clapham’s school governors.  At the beginning of September 2019, there were 25 pupils on roll in the school. This is well below the capacity of the school, which is designed to accommodate up to 59 pupils if all spaces are in use.

Since the start of this academic year there has been a further fall in numbers with nine on roll in January, and seven currently on roll.

The school has had multiple challenges. Earlier this year, Clapham was rated inadequate following an Ofsted inspection and is also facing severe financial pressures, with a predicted deficit of more than £250,000.

An Executive Headteacher and full-time Head of School from the Priestley Multi Academy Trust were appointed to oversee the school’s leadership, but this is not sustainable.

The County Council also put in place an interim executive board to support staff to bring about necessary and rapid improvement in standards for children remaining at the school.

Although the leadership has been making the changes needed to bring the school out of special measures, the Ofsted rating, coupled with the six-figure deficit, meant it was unlikely a school or academy sponsor would be willing to enter into a potential partnership for the longer term.

“We have made this decision with enormous sadness,” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills. “Many people, key members of the community, families, stakeholders and professional colleagues have fought long and hard to find solutions to keep Clapham school viable.

“But with a cluster of good primary schools nearby, maintaining pupil numbers has proved very difficult.

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

“We are working hard to maintain the vitality of our villages and our schools but we had to consider whether, in the circumstances, keeping this school open was in the best interests of local children. Deciding on closure was a very difficult decision to make.”

The catchment areas of nearby Austwick Church of England Primary School and Bentham Community Primary School will be extended with effect from 1 September 2020 to jointly serve the area currently served by Clapham.

This story was published 15 June 2020