North Yorkshire County Council is to consider whether to close a village primary school.
Parents, governors and staff at Horton-in-Ribblesdale Primary School have been notified that the council’s Executive will next week consider a recommendation to publish closure proposals for the school.
The school has only 15 children on roll, no new entrants this year and no substantive headteacher.
Although the school has collaborated with Austwick and Clapham primary schools in the area, both the county council’s Children and Young People’s Service and the Diocese of Leeds believe that the school in the long term will not be able to provide the social and educational breadth and quality that children require and will struggle to be financially sustainable.
In a consultation this autumn about school closure carried out by Horton’s governors, staff at the school stated they were concerned about the impact falling numbers was having on ensuring an appropriate curriculum and social experiences: “We are very concerned about the impact that this is having on the children’s personal development, behaviour and welfare.
“The low numbers of children is having an impact on the ability of teachers to deliver an age appropriate curriculum.”
Of the 15 pupils on roll, there is only one child in nursery, one child in Key Stage 1 and only two boys in the school.
Governors decided last week not to publish closure notices and announced their intention to seek a further interim headteacher for two terms and to re-advertise for a permanent Headteacher. Previous recruitment efforts have failed to secure a candidate.
Although the school was rated outstanding by Ofsted in 2010, the council believes that without secure leadership, this rating is at risk. Moreover, falling numbers mean the school will carry forward a deficit which will grow in future years to more than £60,000.
“We are taking forward this proposal, along with the Diocese, with a very heavy heart,” said County Coun Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools.
“Nobody likes to see the closure of a village school and North Yorkshire works very hard with its small schools to find sustainable solutions to keep them going.
“We have supported Horton-in-Ribblesdale to find alternative arrangements but sadly these have not worked out and our priority must be the children and their entitlement to the highest quality of teaching and learning throughout their schooling.”
The governors’ consultation process failed to identify a viable alternative option that would secure the school’s future.
The council and the diocese are well aware of local opposition to the proposal and concern about the impact of school closure on rural communities.
Indeed the county council works hard to sustain communities in rural areas.
Over recent years the Council has urged the Yorkshire Dales National Park to reconsider its housing development plan to incorporate a clear strategic framework that links housing, employment and other policy areas to enable new and younger people to live and work within the park.
In this way, local schools, shops and services can be sustained to address the problems of community decline.
The allocation of eight dwellings for Horton-in-Ribblesdale in the Park’s current housing plan is expected to generate no more than two primary age children – too few to ensure the continuing viability of the school even if these potential developments come forward.
It is proposed that if Horton-in-Ribblesdale primary closes, the area currently served by the school will be served by Austwick CE Primary School, five miles away, which is also judged as outstanding.
Austwick’s headteacher has already been providing interim leadership support to Horton.
If the executive agrees on December 6 to publish statutory closure notices for the school there will be a 28-day representation period for parents and other stakeholders to present their views.
Members would then take a final decision on January 31 on whether to close Horton-in-Ribblesdale next April.