Proposal to close Woodfield Community Primary School in Harrogate from 31 December 2022

Information regarding the proposals by us to close Woodfield Community Primary School in Harrogate from 31 December 2022.

This page contains information on the background of the proposals. There will be a public meeting on:

Wednesday 15 June 2022 at 6pm at Woodfield Community Primary School.

Background

Woodfield Community Primary School School is subject to a Directive Academy Order following an Inadequate Ofsted judgement from an inspection in January 2020. Any maintained school that is judged inadequate by Ofsted is required to become a sponsored academy or, if an academy sponsor cannot be found, a school judged inadequate usually has to close. The Regional Schools Commissioner has been unable to secure an Academy Trust to sponsor Woodfield school due to viability concerns. Where a school would not be viable as an academy, it is expected the Local Authority (LA) will close the school and the Secretary of State can direct them to do so if necessary.

Since January 2020, there have been considerable changes in staffing at Woodfield School. The current acting executive headteacher took up leadership at the start of the summer term 2020. Monitoring visits by Ofsted to Woodfield School in June and November 2021 found that leaders and those responsible for governance are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures and the Local Authority’s statement of action and the school’s action plan are both fit for purpose. While it is important to recognise the efforts of all those who have been involved in this improvement journey, the current arrangements can only be temporary and the absence of an academy sponsor means the school faces an uncertain future.

The Governing Bodies of Woodfield Community Primary and Grove Road Community Primary explored with Local Authority officers combining the two schools in order to share the benefit of both school sites. The move would have meant Woodfield School would technically close and become part of Grove Road from September 2022. An extensive consultation process was undertaken involving public meetings and gathering the views of parents and the local community during December and January. After careful consideration Grove Road Community Primary School decided in March, with regret, to withdraw its support for the amalgamation. In light of this, the County Council’s Executive decided to reject the amalgamation proposal at its meeting on 19 April 2022.

Following this, the Governing Body of Woodfield Community Primary School has looked again at what options are available for the school, and concluded that they have now exhausted all options. They have therefore had to request that the County Council undertake a consultation on a proposal that the school should close.

Pupil Numbers

Total pupil numbers have been reducing over time:

Year

Total roll

2017/18

141

2018/19

89

2019/20

80

2020/21

50

2021/22 (October)

49

As at 12 May 2022 there were 37 pupils of mainstream school age at Woodfield Community Primary School. Current pupil numbers in each year group (as at 12 May) are set out below.

Year group 2021-22

Woodfield School

Reception

4

Year 1

1

Year 2

7

Year 3

2

Year 4

8

Year 5

4

Year 6

11

Total

37

The school also offers nursery provision for children aged 3 and 4, and there are nine children in nursery.

There are currently 150 primary school places available at Woodfield School. Given current forecasts, including the potential demand from new housing in the catchment areas, and patterns of parental preference, there would appear to be sufficient primary places available in the local area. Birth rates in the local area are falling and only one of the several schools within a reasonable distance from Woodfield is oversubscribed for entry into the Reception year in September 2022.

Pupils living in the Woodfield catchment area already attend a wide variety of primary schools. Based on the October 2021 census data 351 primary aged pupils lived in the catchment area and attended a North Yorkshire primary school. However 339 of those, so 96 %, were attending a school other than Woodfield Primary.

Further pupil forecast data is presented separately as part of this consultation.

The Financial Position

Pupil numbers determine the level of funding that a school receives. Woodfield School has projected in-year budget deficits of £96.8k in the financial year 2021/22, £66.3k in 2022/23 and £86.8k in 2023/24, and a forecast cumulative budget deficit of £75.8k in 2021/22, £142.1k in 2022/23, and £228.9k in 2023/24. These figures were based on a projected pupil number of 42 in October 2022, so the position is now expected to be worse.

The Proposal

It is proposed to close Woodfield Community Primary School from 31 December 2022.

If Woodfield Community Primary School closed, the catchment area of an existing school or schools would need to be extended to include the area currently served by Woodfield Community Primary School. Options for consideration include:

  • the whole of the current Woodfield School catchment area to become part of the catchment area for Grove Road Primary School
  • the whole of the current Woodfield School catchment area to become part of the catchment area for Bilton Grange Primary School
  • some form of shared or split arrangement involving both Grove Road and Bilton Grange Schools.

The Local Authority would welcome any feedback during the consultation period on these options and any alternatives to them.

Admissions

For parents of pupils currently attending Woodfield Community Primary School, an admissions preference exercise will be undertaken. Through this exercise, parents/carers will be asked to apply for the preferred school(s) that they would like their child to transfer to in the event of closure, or earlier if that is their wish. Once the full picture of all preferences is known, the Local Authority will liaise with the schools regarding potential allocations, and seek to meet the highest stated preferences wherever possible. The overall intention will be to ensure fairness around the school transfer process in the event that a decision is ultimately taken to close the School. It will allow the Local Authority to apply consideration of admissions criteria to each request and avoid first come first served. Applying this co-ordinated preference exercise approach will achieve that, provide parents/carers with the support that has been requested, and reduce the period of uncertainty for families.

North Yorkshire County Council’s Admissions Team is always happy to give advice to parents, please contact schooladmissions@northyorks.gov.uk.

Local schools

Other primary schools in the local area are:

  • Bilton Grange Primary School (Academy - part of Yorkshire Collaborative Academy Trust), Bilton Lane, Harrogate, HG1 3BA. 
  • Coppice Valley Primary School (Academy - part of Red Kite Learning Trust), Knapping Hill, Harrogate, HG1 2DN. 
  • Grove Road Community Primary School, Grove Road, Harrogate, HG1 5EP. 
  • New Park Primary Academy (part of Northern Star Academies Trust), Skipton Road, Harrogate, HG1 3HF. 
  • Richard Taylor Church of England Primary School (Academy - part of Yorkshire Causeway Schools Trust), Bilton Lane, Harrogate, HG1 3DT. 
  • St Robert's Catholic Primary School, A Voluntary Academy (part of the Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust), Ainsty Road, Harrogate, HG1 4AP. 
  • St Joseph's Catholic Primary School, Harrogate, A Voluntary Academy (part of the Bishop Wheeler Catholic Academy Trust), Coppice Rise, Harrogate, HG1 2DP. 
  • St Peter's Church of England Primary School (Academy - part of Yorkshire Causeway Schools Trust), Belford Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1JA. 
  • Saltergate Infant School (Community infant school), Newby Crescent, Harrogate, HG3 2TT. 
  • Saltergate Community Junior School, Newby Crescent, Harrogate, HG3 2TT.  
  • Starbeck Primary Academy (part of Northern Star Academies Trust), High Street, Starbeck, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG2 7LL. 
  • Willow Tree Community Primary School (Academy - part of Northern Star Academies Trust), Wetherby Road, Harrogate, HG2 7SG. 

Further information about these schools can be found here: Get Information about Schools on the GOV.UK website.

Staff

The County Council is the employer for staff at Woodfield Community Primary School and the Governing Body will seek to protect employment as far as possible for staff currently employed at Woodfield. A separate HR consultation process for staff and their professional associations will follow.

The school premises

The County Council owns the school site, which also accommodates Bilton and Woodfield Community Library, Harrogate Bilton Children and Family Hub, and Oak Beck House. Decisions about the future use of the school premises will be taken after the closure proposal has been determined.

What Happens Next?

Your views about this proposal are welcomed. Online responses may be submitted using the button below:

Have your say here

The closing date for responses is 4 July 2022.

All responses to the consultation received by this date will be considered by our Executive committee on 19 July 2022.

If our Executive decides to proceed, then statutory proposals would be published on 8 September on our website, and statutory notices placed in the local press and on the school gates. These statutory proposals would provide a further four weeks for representations to be made. A final decision would then be made on 18 October 2022 by our Executive (or by the Executive Member for Education and Skills, if there were no objections to statutory proposals). If agreed, the school would close from 31 December 2022.

Anticipated key dates

All dates are subject to approvals at each stage.

Event Date
Consultation opens 6 June 2022
Public meeting Wednesday 15 June at 6 pm at Woodfield Community Primary School
Consultation closes 4 July 2022
County Council’s Executive considers consultation responses 19 July 2022
Statutory Proposals published (4 weeks for representations to be made) 8 September to 6 October 2022
Final decision by County Council’s Executive (or the Executive Member for Education and Skills, if there are no objections to the statutory proposals) 18 October 2022
Closure date (subject to earlier decision making) 31 December 2022

Related documents