This page gives the background to the proposal to close the school from 31 March 2024. There will be a public meeting at Lofthouse Memorial Institute, Lofthouse, Harrogate, HG3 5SN on Wednesday 29 November at 6pm.
At a recent governing body meeting of the Upper Nidderdale Primary Federation representing the three schools of; Fountains Earth, Lofthouse CE Endowed VC Primary School, St Cuthbert’s CE VC Primary School, Pateley Bridge and Glasshouses Community Primary School, it was resolved, with no pupils on roll, to take the heavy and sad decision, to ask North Yorkshire Council to consult on closure proposals for Fountains Earth, Lofthouse CE Endowed VC Primary School.
The Governing Body of the Upper Nidderdale Federation have not reached this decision lightly and have already worked to support the school through the Federation with St Cuthbert’s CE VC Primary School and Glasshouses Community School.
St Cuthbert’s Primary School and Fountains Earth Primary School formerly entered into federation in May 2017, following a collaboration between the two schools that had been in place since 2014. Glasshouses Community Primary School collaborated with and supported the Federation of St Cuthbert’s Primary School and Fountains Earth Primary School in April 2021. Following the collaboration, a new federation comprising the three schools Glasshouses Community Primary School, St Cuthbert’s Primary School and Fountains Earth Primary School was established in January 2022 under the name of Upper Nidderdale Primary Federation. An Executive Headteacher model is in place, and this is common under federation arrangements. The Governing Board and leadership have worked to maximise opportunities presented by the federation arrangements, including bringing pupils together to share activities and learning opportunities such as regular shared curriculum days during ‘Federation Friday’.
Fountains Earth, CE Endowed Primary School, is located in the small rural village of Lofthouse in Nidderdale an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The school is defined by the government as a rural school that serves rural hamlets with isolated dwellings.
In June 2022 the federated Governing Board approached the council to seek consultation on the proposed closure of Fountains Earth. There were 11 pupils on the school roll at this time and the available information showed no sign of any significant growth in the roll. This consultation request was subsequently withdrawn by the Federation Governing Board in July 2022 as it had been suggested locally that the school roll was going to grow in the near future.
The Governing Board subsequently undertook a detailed exercise with the community in Autumn 2022 to understand more fully the future potential pupil numbers at the school. The exercise showed some minor change to the future forecast numbers originally held by the council. Parents, carers and the wider community were informed of the outcome in January 2023. The revised forecast numbers communicated at the time were:
- 2023 to 2024: 11 pupils
- 2024 to 2025: 13 pupils
- 2025 to 2026: 13 pupils
- 2026 to 2027: 15 pupils
- 2027 to 2028: 18 pupils
Importantly, those predictions assumed that none of the existing pupils would leave Fountains Earth, other than to transfer to secondary school at the end of Year 6.
All of the school’s pupils transferred to other schools before the start of the current academic year and there were no new starters in the Reception year group in September 2023. Therefore, the main factor prompting the Governing Board’s request for consultation at this time, is there are currently no pupils on roll at Fountains Earth Primary School.
The school has in recent times experienced recruitment and retention difficulties associated both with the particular location of the school and the challenge of securing suitably skilled staff to deal with the differentiation required by whole school teaching in a single class structure.
Finance is also a key concern. The pupil numbers for the October 2023 census form the basis of a school’s funding for the 2024 to 2025 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 the Dedicated School Grant funding that a local authority receives to fund schools and academies located within the local authority area.