New head appointed at threatened village primary school

Pupils, parents, and supporters at the school who are fighting against the closure.
Pupils, parents, and supporters at the school who are fighting against the closure.
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Parents at a threatened school have appointed a new interim headteacher despite it prompting a walk-out from teachers who they say have ‘quit en masse’.

Horton-in-Ribblesdale School has only 15 pupils and is under threat of closure from North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) over concerns about its teaching ability.

But, say school governors, the loss of the school will equate to the loss of the village and they are determined to make it work.

“We have to – it means too much to everybody here,” said Nicky Rhodes, chair of governors. “This isn’t just about the school. The whole community is under threat.

“The families are here for the school – if it goes, they go. We, as a community, have the right to survive.”

NYCC is currently consulting on plans to close the school from April, amid concerns about the impact of low pupil numbers on children’s development.

County Coun Arthur Barker, executive member for children and young people’s services, said the executive believed this was the best course of action. “The executive decision taken before Christmas was unanimous,” he said. “We didn’t take that decision lightly.”

With the appointment of a new headteacher, Martin Bishop, who started last week, governors say they are making in-roads into proving the viability of the school.

“He is hugely confident in his ability to offer an effective education for the children,” said Mrs Rhodes. “He is contracted until April but isn’t treating this as a stop-gap job. This is a full-blown role for him.”

Mr Bishop’s first week was particularly challenging, she agreed.

“He’s had to replace all the teaching staff, they all walked out en-masse over Christmas,” she said.

“But there are two new teachers in place. Now, the feeling at the school is positive, hopeful, and the children are thoroughly enjoying their lessons.”

NYCC’s executive decided in December to press ahead with plans to close the school from April.

With just 15 children on the roll, including one in nursery, one in Key Stage 1 and just two boys, it believes their school experience may suffer.

A consultation on the plans opened last Thursday, with comments invited until February 5.

Coun Barker said it was impossible to pre-empt the final results of the consultation, but added that he ‘didn’t share the confidence of the governing body’ in the viability of the school.

“We don’t do this lightly,” he stressed. “We have lots of small schools in North Yorkshire and we do our best to keep them open.”

NYCC’s executive committee are voting on the fate of the school on February 21 and people are urged to write with their views to: The Corporate Director, Children and Young People’s Services, North Yorkshire County Council, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AE before February 2.

For more on the plight go to the Friends of Horton-in-Ribblesdale School Facebook.