Fight begins to save Clapham Primary School from closure

The action plan meeting against the closure of Clapham Primary School.
The action plan meeting against the closure of Clapham Primary School.

Villagers in Clapham have joined forces with school governors, Ingleborough Estate, the parish council and local teachers in a bid to prevent the closure of the village primary school.

The meeting discussed overturning the proposal being led by North Yorkshire County Council to close the rural school.

Clapham Primary School.

Clapham Primary School.

The Community Action Group and was told financial issues are driving the closure threat despite Clapham Primary School being one of the few schools in North Yorkshire in surplus at the year end.

Iain Crossley, chair of the Action Group, said: “We wish to know why North Yorkshire County Council is pushing to close our school when other schools in similar positions are being supported by both the county council and the Church of England.

“The Action Group, together with the local vicar, Rev John Davies, is meeting with the Leeds Diocese to understand what the church can do to support rural sustainability.”

The Action Group presented the case for saving the school in Clapham at a meeting with Coun Patrick Mulligan, Executive Member for Education, following the Skipton and Ripon Area Constituency Committee on March 14.

The sustainability of local communities is supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Craven District Council. At the Policy Committee on March 5 they discussed attracting younger people into the area and agreed it was essential to retain access to local primary schools for the long-term viability of local communities.

The community is now setting up an Educational Fund to support Clapham Primary School and has already achieved more than 20 per cent of the total needed.

The fund will ensure Clapham Primary School continues to thrive for the foreseeable future. Plans are in place to repeat the success of the community-owned award winning Clapham Village Store to offer breakfast clubs, after school sessions and early years provision

Iain Crossley added: “Short-term financial considerations may have influenced NYCC to push for closure, however, this has not fully taken account of the new homes being built in the area and the increasing number of families now living and working in the Yorkshire Dales.

“Parents are concerned NYCC is not taking the needs of their children into account. Clapham Primary School is a listed rural school and there must be a presumption against closure.

“Other CoE schools in the area are already at capacity and it seems to parents, their children from the Clapham area are being unfairly disadvantaged. The Action Group is meeting Julian Smith MP to seek his assurance the school will be supported.

“A school is the heart of sustainable communities; without a school the soul and vibrancy of the village is lost. We must stop the loss of any more rural primary schools.

Clapham Primary School is supported by an energised and vibrant Friends of Clapham School; they report the strong need for the school. In the last year three new families in the village chose to send their children to the school, one family bringing their child back to the school - this is a trend that looks set to continue.

Clapham Primary School was rated Outstanding at the last Ofsted inspection.

The Clapham community has a strong history of self-help; when the local shop and post office closed it was taken on by the community and is now run by volunteers. Clapham has a depth of experience in setting up community-based enterprises; such as Clapham Community Shop, Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) and Growing with Grace.

The school is a protected rural school and is on the list of local authority-maintained primary schools in England that the Secretary of State has designated as rural under the Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order 2018. Decision-makers should adopt a presumption against the closure of rural schools; in this case North Yorkshire County Council has failed to take this into account when making their decision to proceed to consultation on closure.

In 2017, the primary school in Horton in Ribblesdale was closed after considerable local objection.