A small Craven primary school is threatened with closure – for the second time in six months.
The governing body of Richard Thornton’s CE Primary School, in Burton-in-Lonsdale, previously consulted on its closure in October but stopped following strong local opposition.
Governors, some of whom joined following a rallying cry at a public meeting in November, asked North Yorkshire County Council to defer a consultation for one year. They also proposed a plan to safeguard the school’s immediate future.
But now, the county council has announced it is consulting on closing the school and blamed declining pupil numbers for making it financially unviable. Headteacher Chris Norris said: “This is obviously very sad and upsetting news for everyone in our school community.
“It comes after a tremendous amount of work, much of which was behind the scenes, had taken place to finalise a strategy for securing the school’s future that we could present to the county council.
“Most importantly, during the coming months we will continue to ensure that the best educational opportunities and provision for our children are maintained.”
Ian Thompson, chairman of Burton-in-Lonsdale Parish Council and one of the four new governors, said he was “extremely disappointed”.
“The mood in the village is very down. Everyone knew we were going to Harrogate to try to persuade the county council, so we feel as though we have failed.”
He said that governors had proposed either sharing the headteacher’s role with a partner school, or making the role part-time.
“The differential costs between a part-time and full-time headteacher would balance the books for a year and give a chance for us to make the school more attractive.
“We feel if the council removed the question mark hanging over the school then it would give comfort to potential parents that it’s worth taking the risk and therefore increase pupil numbers.”
However, the county council raised concerns about whether the proposals would be financially viable, whether they would build up pupil numbers and how readily they could be implemented.
Figures show there are just 12 pupils at the school and all of them are boys.
Under the current staffing structure, the school, which is predicting a deficit of nearly £30,000 for 2014/2015, would need to have at least 29 pupils on roll to be financially stable.
Chairman of the governing body Sue Yardy added: “We will keep parents and the community informed of developments, and we also invite them to speak to us if they have any queries or concerns about this.”
The consultation period will close on March 26 and a final decision will be made on May 27.