Proposal to close St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School, Whitby from 9 April 2021.

There will be a virtual public meeting on Tuesday 24 November at 7 pm.

If you wish to be part of this virtual meeting could you please let us know by emailing schoolorganisation@northyorks.gov.uk and joining instructions will be provided

If you do not have the facilities to participate in a virtual meeting but would still like to engage directly in the consultation process then please liaise with St Hilda’s RC Primary School, Waterstead Lane, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 1PZ (Tel. 01947 603901)

Background

St Hilda’s Roman Catholic School is a small school located in Whitby that has no distinct catchment area but has historically served a wide area consisting primarily of Whitby and the surrounding rural area.

Pupil numbers at the school have been low compared to other local schools for many years and governors and leaders of the school as well as the Diocese and NYCC as the Local Authority (LA) have been aware of the school’s vulnerability. As a small school operating in an area with a significant surplus of school places the school is particularly susceptible to the effects of falling numbers due to parental preference.

Governors have worked hard to try and increase pupil numbers at the school notably by working alongside the Diocese to bring an Early Years education provider onto the school site and foster relations with these families. The governors, with support from the LA, have also attempted to make cost savings and reduce expenditure where possible.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Middlesbrough has been undergoing a process of converting all of their maintained schools into Academies under the leadership of multi-academy trusts. In December 2018 an academy order was signed for St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School. However, as with all academy conversions a process of due diligence was required before any conversion would be approved. In the case of St Hilda’s, the financial situation and projected financial outlook prevented the school from been accepted into a Trust.

Decision to consult upon closure in January 2020

In January 2020 the Governing Body asked the LA to enter into consultation to seek to close St Hilda’s RC Primary School due to the continued falling rolls and associated significant financial challenges faced by the school, coupled with the continued lack of applications for admission to the school from Catholic pupils.

During the consultation period in Spring 2020 a group of stakeholders made the case that they would like more time and some further engagement with the LA to explore further any options for keeping the school open. However, due to the Covid 19 Pandemic which closed the School, and the restrictions placed upon gatherings, it was not feasible to hold these kind of discussions within an appropriate timescale given the proposed closure date of 31 August 2020. Having first extended the consultation period, a decision was then taken by the LA in early April to not proceed with the proposal at that time, therefore allowing the opportunity for stakeholders to look at alternatives to closure.

Decision to consult upon closure in September 2020

As part of the work to satisfy themselves that all options had been considered, three local stakeholders, comprising two parents and County Councillor Joe Plant, joined the Schools Governing Body. Alongside this the Roman Catholic Diocese appointed further Foundation Governors to ensure a full range of expertise were available to look at the options. The changes constituted a complete restructure of the Governing Body as only two members remained from the previous board and a new Chair and Vice-Chair were appointed. The LA funded a piece of detailed financial analysis on options for the school going forward and provided additional professional support.

Following a short period of review the LA received a letter from the Governing Body of St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School in early September 2020 in which they stated, ‘With enormous sadness and deep regret, and after many months of sustained efforts to identify a solution to the funding crisis faced by the school, the governors of St Hilda’s RC Primary School feel they must once again ask North Yorkshire County Council to commence formal consultation on the proposed closure of our St Hilda’s.’

The Governing Body of St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School have not reached this decision lightly. They have decided that pupil numbers had fallen to an unsustainable level and found they were not able to set a balanced budget which is a legal requirement. The Diocese of Middlesbrough has confirmed that there is no evidence to require the continuation of Catholic provision in Whitby and the LA have confirmed that the school is not required to meet their duty to maintain sufficient school places. 

The LA is therefore now consulting on the proposal to close the school with effect from 9 April 2021.

Factors affecting the School’s viability

There are three main factors leading to this closure proposal. First, the number of children at St Hilda’s has fallen from 51 in 2015/16 to 19 in September 2020/21. The total pupil number has now fallen to 2 since the closure proposal was announced earlier this term.

Secondly, with pupil numbers largely determining the school budget the finances are not sustainable. The financial outlook has significantly worsened in line with the dramatic fall in pupils numbers and there is therefore no prospect of financial recovery.

Finally, the Diocese of Middlesbrough’s mission and purpose is to provide education with a Catholic character to Catholic children. Out of a total role of 24 children on roll at St Hilda’s in 2019/20 only 4 were Catholic. The Diocese confirmed at that time that there was no evidence to support the continuation of Catholic education in Whitby, as there appeared to be no other Catholic children seeking to attend the school. This position has not changed given the current number on roll.

Pupil Numbers

The number of children at St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School has been falling over the past few years. There were just 19 pupils on roll at the beginning of September 2020 and this total has fallen to 2 since the closure proposal was announced. The majority of the pupils who have recently left have taken advantage of the Diocese of Middlesbrough’s offer to ensure that places at, and transport to, St Hedda’s R.C Primary School, Egton Bridge would be made available for any pupils from St Hilda’s. Forecasts indicate there is no reasonable prospect of the numbers of pupils at St Hilda’s returning to sustainable levels.

 

Total pupils on roll at St Hilda’s

2015/16

51

2016/17

46

2017/18

31

2018/19

28

2019/20

24

1 September 2020

19

1 October  2020

2

The pupil roll over recent years has been well below the capacity of the school, which is designed to accommodate 105 pupils if all spaces are in use.

There is a significant surplus of school places across Whitby Town. Where possible school place planners seek to maintain a 5% to 10% surplus of places in a planning area to allow for flexibility within the system and parental preference to be exercises. In Whitby there is currently a surplus of over 30%. Even if all housing identified within the local plan was constructed at expected rates the surplus is projected to stand at 28% in 24/25.

If St Hilda’s were to close the surplus across the town would drop to 23% at present, and if all local plan housing was constructed at expected rates that surplus is projected to stand at 21% in 24/25.

The Financial Position

Pupil numbers determine the school budget.  With reducing pupil numbers, and a reduced budget, the finances are not sustainable.

Projected Budget Positions as at September 2021

In Year Deficit 2020/21

  • £39.6k

In Year Deficit 2021/22

  • £53.4k

In Year Deficit 2022/23

  • £30.7k

Cumulative Deficit end of 22/23

  • £144.7k

These projections were based on pupil number assumptions of 20 in Autumn 2020 and 26 in Autumn 2021. The financial outlook has significantly worsened in line with the dramatic fall in pupil numbers and there is therefore no prospect of financial recovery.

Schools Standards/Ofsted

The School’s last Ofsted inspection was in November 2017 and it confirmed that the school continued to be ‘Good’. This proposal is not based upon the quality of the education provision at St Hilda’s. However, it should be noted that where numbers of pupils at a school fall very low and budgets become restricted it provides an additional challenge to school standards.

Other local schools

The nearest local school, 0.1 miles from St Hilda’s Roman Catholic School, is Airy Hill Primary School, Whitby. There are also four other local Primary Schools; East Whitby Primary Academy, Ruswarp CE VC Primary School, Stakesby Primary Academy and West Cliff Primary School.

The nearest Roman Catholic School at 7.3 miles away is St Hedda’s Roman Catholic Primary School, Egton Bridge.

For children currently at St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School, North Yorkshire County Council will work with each family to try to meet their individual preferences for other schools. Governors at St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School are also committed to supporting families in their choice of school and in making a smooth transition. The Diocese of Middlesbrough will seek to ensure that spaces are available at the nearest Catholic Primary School (St Hedda’s  Primary School, Egton Bridge) and to provide transport for those pupils currently at St Hilda’s who wish to continue to receive a Catholic education. Some schools may be able to admit over their published admission numbers for some year groups.

Eligibility for home-to-school transport will be determined in line with the County Council’s current home-to- school transport policy and procedures, based on travel distances from each child’s home address and individual circumstances. 

Parents have a right to express a preference for any school. The LA is the admissions authority for community and voluntary controlled schools and will meet that preference provided there are vacant places or the school is happy to admit above the published admission number.  The governing body decides the conditions for admission to Voluntary Aided schools or Academy schools, whilst still bound by the Admissions Code. Where a child attends a school, which is not their normal school or nearest school, parents are normally responsible for making transport arrangements.  

North Yorkshire County Council’s Admissions Team is always happy to give advice to parents – please contact Vickie Hemming-Allen on 01609 535481 or Lisa Herdman on 01609 534953

Based on January 2020 Census.

 

St Hilda’s RC Primary School

Airy Hill Primary School

East Whitby Primary Academy

Ruswarp CE VC  Primary School

Stakesby Primary Academy

West Cliff Primary School

Total

 

 

Academy

Academy

 

Academy

Academy

 

Distance from St Hilda’s RC School by road

NA

0.1 miles

1.1 miles

1.6 miles

0.9 miles

0.9 miles

 

Last Ofsted inspection

Good – June 2013

Not applicable

Not applicable

Good – March 2018

Not applicable

Not applicable

 

Net Capacity

(places available at the school)

105

210

315

105

233

210

1178

Current pupil roll

24

179

188

94

144

188

817

Current capacity

-/+

81

31

127

11

89

22

361

Pupil roll 2020/21

15

176

183

90

137

197

798

Pupil roll 2021/22

15

173

181

85

138

198

790

Pupil roll 2022/23

14

175

178

87

137

196

787

Pupil roll 2023/24

14

173

172

86

135

198

778

Pupil roll 2024/25

13

170

168

83

133

198

765

Pupils from outstanding permissions by 2024/25*

0

16

17

14

18

3

 

Potential pupils from future housing – Local Plan (over 15 yrs)*

0

0

85

0

15

8

 

*Based on 1 primary-aged pupil from every 4 houses

Staff

A separate consultation process, including a staff meeting, will run in parallel with the closure process.

The School Site

The school building and part of the site is owned by the Diocese of Middlesbrough with the remainder owned by the County Council. Decisions about the future use of the school building and playing field will be taken by the owners after the closure proposal has been determined.

What Happens Next?

Your views about this proposal are welcomed.

Complete our online survey

Paper responses should be returned to North Yorkshire County Council at the address below:

Freeport RTKE-RKAY-CUJS
St Hilda’s
Strategic Planning
North Yorkshire County Council
County Hall
Northallerton
DL7 8AE

The closing date for responses is 14 December 2020

All responses to the consultation received by this date will be considered by the County Council’s Executive on 12 January 2021.

If the County Council’s Executive decides to proceed with the closure proposal, then statutory notices would be published in the local press on Friday 22 January 2021. These notices provide a further four weeks for representations to be made.  A final decision would then be taken by North Yorkshire County Council’s Executive on 9 March 2021.  If agreed the school would close on 9 April 2021.

Key Dates

All dates are subject to approvals at each stage.

Consultation opens

2 November 2020

Virtual Public meeting

24 November 2020 at 7pm

Consultation closes

14 December 2020

County Council’s Executive considers consultation response

12 January 2021

Statutory Notices published (4 weeks for representations to be made)

22 January 2021 to 19 February 2021

Final decision by County Council’s Executive

9 March 2021

Proposed school closure date

9 April 2021