Proposal to close Hovingham CE VC Primary School from 31 March 2023

Information on the proposal to close Hovingham CE VC Primary School.

Background

At a recent governing body meeting of the federation of Hovingham CE Primary School and St Hilda’s CE Primary School it was resolved, with regret and reluctance, to ask us to consult on closure proposals for Hovingham CE Primary School.

The federated governing body of Hovingham CE Primary School and St Hilda’s CE Primary School, have not reached this decision lightly and have already worked to support the school through the federation with St Hilda’s CE VC Primary School, Ampleforth which has been in place since 2016.

The main factor prompting the request is there are currently no pupils on roll at Hovingham. The School has operated with 40 pupils or below for the last decade. Since the 2017/18 academic year there has been a downward trend of pupil numbers and pupils numbers fell from 33 in May 2020 to 24 in May 2021. This trend accelerated across the 2021/22 academic year with the school having 20 pupils on roll in October, 16 in January and only 7 in May 2022. Between May 2022 and the start of the new term in September 2022 all remaining pupils departed and no new starters commenced the term in September.

Finance is also a key concern. The pupil numbers for the October 2022 census form the basis of a schools’ funding for the 2023/24 financial year. The department for education have confirmed that where a school has no pupils in the October census they will not allocate any funding for that school in the schools block element of dedicated school grant funding that a local authority receives to fund schools and academies located within the local authority area.

In addition, the permanent headteacher post became vacant on 31 August 2022 and from September 2022 temporary leadership has been in place. This is provided by the executive headteacher of Foston, Terrington and Stillington schools, and covers both Hovingham and their federated school, St Hilda’s CE VC Primary School in Ampleforth. The federation governing Body will require clarity over the future of Hovingham School to allow them to make permanent arrangements for future leadership.

Factors Affecting the School’s Viability

Pupil Numbers

Hovingham is a 4-11 CE VC Primary School and currently has no children on roll. The school is located in a rural area of Ryedale, serving families living in and near the village of Hovingham, and the surrounding area. The number of children at Hovingham CE VC Primary School has been falling over the past few years:

2014/15 – 35
2015/16 – 36
2016/17 – 37
2017/18 – 37
2018/19 – 29
2019/20 – 33
2020/21 – 24
2021/22 – 7 (May 2022 Census)
2022/23 – 0

The school has a published admission number (PAN) of 8 pupils per year group. The school has capacity to accommodate up to 60 pupils if all spaces are in use, and therefore has the potential to contribute 60 places in the local area.

The Financial Position

Pupil numbers determine the funding for a school budget. The department for education have confirmed that in the exceptional situation where a school has no pupils, no funding would be provided to the local authority for that school through the department for education dedicated school grant schools block funding; this is the grant funding used to fund school delegated budgets. We will not receive a school funding allocation for Hovingham CE Primary in the 2023/24 financial year as no pupils were recorded on the department for education October 2022 school census. In the event of the school remaining open, the local authority would need to determine whether the school should continue to be funded through the school funding formula. If this were agreed, the school would receive the formula lump sum funding (2023/24 indicative value £128k) and the school rates funding (£2.5k). Any 2023/24 formula funding allocation for Hovingham CE Primary would need to be funded from the DSG funding allocations provided for other schools and academies within North Yorkshire.

The federation of Hovingham CE Primary School and St Hilda’s CE Primary School operate an amalgamated budget for the two schools within the federation. The balance on the federation amalgamated revenue budget as at 31 March 2022 was an overall budget surplus of £90.1k. The indicative position of the individual schools is a budget deficit of £5.2k for Hovingham and a budget surplus of £95.3k for St Hilda’s.

There appears to be no reasonable long-term prospect of recovery for the Hovingham budget given there will be no department for education funding allocation for the school for the 2023/24 financial year.

The 2022/23 start budget submitted to the Local Authority for the federation in May 2022 forecasts an accumulated revenue budget surplus at the end of the 2022/23 financial year of £27.5k. The budget forecasts that the federation will have an accumulated revenue budget deficit of £71.8k at the end of the 2023/24 financial year and £196.5k accumulated revenue budget deficit at the end of the 2024/25 financial year. The financial forecast is based the following pupil number assumptions for Hovingham: October 2021 – 20 pupils, October 2022 – 8 pupils, October 2023 – 5 pupils.

In the event of Hovingham CE Primary closing on 31 March 2023, any legacy costs associated with the operation of the school incurred in the 2023/24 financial year would need to continue to be charged to the school budget. Any final deficit on the school budget, after all costs have been accounted for, would need to be met from local authority funds.

School Leadership 

As stated above there is no permanent leadership in place for the school due to the Headteacher post becoming vacant during the summer holiday period of 2022. Temporary leadership is currently provided by the executive headteacher of Foston, Terrington and Stillington schools. This arrangement covers both Hovingham School and St Hilda’s CE VC Primary School in Ampleforth. Given both the practical and financial difficulties presented by Hovingham having no pupils it would not be possible to engage a permanent headteacher to cover St Hilda’s and Hovingham on the existing shared cost arrangements. The federation governing body will require clarity over the future of Hovingham School to allow them to make permanent arrangements for future leadership.

Standards and Curriculum

The most recent full Ofsted inspection for Hovingham School was in October 2017. At that time there were 39 pupils on roll. Ofsted judged the school to be ‘Good’. However, pupil numbers at Hovingham have fallen rapidly. As numbers fall, it is increasingly difficult to provide the remaining pupils with access to the full range of experiences and the quality of education they require. At present, if any pupils were to apply to join Hovingham School there is no realistic prospect of them being able to get a full and balanced school experience in the absence of any peers.

The last Ofsted inspection report for St Hilda’s Primary School, Ampleforth related to an inspection in March 2020, and the overall effectiveness of the school was judged to be ‘Good’.

Both of the above Ofsted inspections took place under the previous substantive headteacher. From September 2022 the leadership at Hovingham and St Hilda’s has been provided by the current Executive Headteacher of Foston, Terrington and Stillington Primary Schools. The most recent Ofsted inspections at each of those three schools have taken place under her leadership.

Foston Primary School was subject to a short inspection in January 2020 that confirmed that the school continued to be judged ‘Good’. Terrington Primary School was subject to a short inspection in June 2018 that confirmed the school continued to be judged ‘Good’.

The executive headteacher of Foston and Terrington began to provide leadership at Stillington in August 2020, the school having been judged ‘Inadequate’ since 2016. Stillington was last subject to full inspection in June 2021 when Ofsted recognised the progress at the school. The overall inspection outcome was ‘Requires Improvement’ and leadership and management were judged to be ‘Good’.

Primary School places in the local area

There are currently no pupils on roll at Hovingham CE so there will be no immediate requirement to assist parents with seeking alternative places in the event of closure. However, it is important to ensure that there are sufficient school places in the local area. In October 2021 there were 31 children living in Hovingham’s discrete catchment area and attending a North Yorkshire school, and a further 11 living in the catchment area that Hovingham shares with St Hilda’s. At that time 14 of those children were attending Hovingham and 28 were going to a total of nine alternative schools.

There are four other neighbouring primary schools within c.7 miles of Hovingham CE VC Primary School. Across the area there are places available in all year groups at various schools. Further details of school capacities and pupil forecasts are set out in an accompanying document.

The nearest school to Hovingham is Slingsby CP which is currently operating over their net capacity of 77. The Slingsby facilities offer some ability to operate over net capacity but limits them from having a planned admission number higher than 11.
Although Slingsby has typically been oversubscribed in recent years this is predominantly due to local popularity rather than an ‘in area’ need for places. In October 2021 there were 94 pupils on roll at Slingsby. However, only 28 of these were pupils living within the Slingsby catchment area. Significant numbers of pupils currently attend Slingsby from the catchment areas of Nawton CP, Amotherby CP and St Hilda’s CE.

If Hovingham were to close and Slingsby were to experience more ‘in area’ demand for places from an enlarged catchment area then applicants from that catchment area would receive priority for Reception places over applicants from other areas. For example, in the reception year group during October 2021, five of the 11 pupils were attending from outside of the catchment area, and going forward with an enlarged catchment area we would expect that proportion could reduce.

There is currently capacity in all year groups at Terrington CE VA Primary School, which is the next nearest school. There are also places available in all year groups at St Hilda’s CE Primary School, Ampleforth. Both of these schools have adjacent catchment areas to that of Hovingham CE Primary School and a Church of England designation.

The Proposal

For the reasons above it is proposed that Hovingham CE VC Primary School should close with effect from 31 March 2023.

Admissions and Catchment Areas

There is available capacity in the local area to ensure sufficiency of school places. Parents of future children living in the current Hovingham catchment area will be able to express a preference for school places at any school. However, residents are entitled to have a local school which their address gives them priority to attend in the event of oversubscription. Therefore, the current Hovingham catchment area will need to be subsumed into the catchment area for one or more of the surrounding schools. 

Council Officers, having consulted with Diocesan representatives, have identified two options which seem to offer sensible catchment schools to the residents of the current catchment area. At present, there is a discrete catchment area solely for Hovingham, and a second area which is a shared area between Hovingham and St Hilda’s, Ampleforth. The current catchment and possible options are shown on maps accompanying this consultation document.

Option 1: Hovingham CE discrete catchment area (comprising the parishes of Hovingham, Scackleton, Stonegrave and most of Coulton) to become part of the catchment area for Slingsby CP. The area currently shared between Hovingham CE and St Hilda’s to become part of St Hilda’s catchment area. 

Option 2: Hovingham parish to become part of the Slingsby CP catchment area. The area currently shared between Hovingham CE and St Hilda’s and the parish of Stonegrave to become part of St Hilda’s catchment area. Parishes of Coulton and Scackleton to become part of the catchment area for Terrington CE School.

As part of this consultation, we are asking for views on these options for future catchment areas.

Free home to school transport would be provided for entitled pupils in accordance with the revised catchment area arrangements in accordance with the County Council’s Home to School Transport Policy.

Staff

A separate staff consultation process, including a meeting for staff and their professional associations and unions, will run in parallel with this consultation on the closure proposal. Staff are also welcomed to comment on the proposal as part of this consultation.

The School Site

The school building is not owned by the County Council. Decisions about the future use of the school building will be taken by the owners after the closure proposal has been determined.

Additional Information

This consultation document should be read in conjunction with the following documents which can be found here:

  • Maps showing the current local catchment areas and two possible future options should Hovingham CE School close
  • Other schools – capacities and forecasts

What Happens Next?

Your views about this proposal are welcomed. You can either complete and return the attached response sheet, or submit an online response. Paper responses should be returned to North Yorkshire County Council at the address below:

Your views about this proposal are welcomed.

Online responses may be submitted by following this link:

Complete the online survey here

Your personal details, and those of others you may refer to, will not be published.

The closing date for responses is 5pm on Monday 12 December 2022.

All responses to the consultation received by this date will be considered by our executive on 24 January 2023.

If our executives decide to proceed with the closure proposal, then statutory notices would be scheduled to be published in the local press on 1 February 2023. These notices would provide a further four weeks for representations to be made. A final decision is then scheduled to be taken by our executive on 21 March 2023. If agreed, the school would close on 31 March 2023.

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