AN action group is celebrating an unprecedented result after successfully fighting against the closure of Clapham Primary School.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council's executive unanimously voted to halt proposals to shut the school when it met this morning and allow the school governors to implement their recovery plan.

Iain Crossley, chairman of the Clapham Community Action Group which had worked with governors and parents to put a case for keeping the school open, said everyone was in a jubilant mood after the meeting.

"We are delighted our actions were a success," he said.

"The decision was unanimous by the executive who commended us for a meaningful and responsible response to the proposals."

Mr Crossley, who presented the village's case alongside parent Rob Willett and the Reverend John Davies, said there was going to be a meeting between the action group, parents and governors in the evening to put their business plan into action and make sure they can make the school work.

He said they know of parents who were looking at moving their children to a different school and those who had already decided to move and said the important thing was to gain their confidence back.

The decision to carry out a consultation into closing the school at the end of the summer term was first mooted at the beginning of the year after pupil numbers dropped.

The closure process began in February, following a meeting of the school governors in November, last year and the consultation ended on April 4.

Initially the decision date was to be in June but was brought forward.

The council, together with the Leeds Anglican Diocese, said at the time that they believed closure was in the best interests of current and future pupils of the school - which has just 28 on roll.

Numbers of children attending Clapham primary had fallen from 42 in 2014/15 to the current number, and further reductions had been predicted.

Mr Crossley said the steering group had put forward a robust plan which highlighted the shutting of the school would be short-sighted and not in the best interests of the children, parents or the wider community.

"This is the first time a council has overturned a consultation of this type; nationally there are only a few such cases, and we are very happy. It proves something as important as this is worth fighting for," he said.

Over 200 written submissions were sent to North Yorkshire County Council in response to the proposals. The issues raised by local people were said to echo the deep-seated anxieties within rural communities at the loss of vital infrastructure, such as primary schools and GP surgeries.

"We look forward to working with the governors to continue to develop the school for the benefit of local children Already parents have expressed their confidence in the school and this can only continue to develop," said Mr Crossley.

He added: "We have and will continue to raise money for the school. We have and will continue to give of our time and expertise: to provide wraparound care, to share knowledge, skills and advice when problems seem too much. These are not the acts of a wealthy, privileged area; rather they’re what a farming community does. When part of our community goes through a tough patch we come together, we help and, above all, we protect a vital asset.”

Mr Willett added: "Clapham Primary School provides an excellent education in a rural setting for our daughter. We do not feel the size of the classes is in any way detrimental to her schooling, and indeed the mixing of different age groups is beneficial as it teaches her social interactions with both older and younger pupils.”

Local elected member, Cllr David Ireton also thanked officers and the executive members at the council for listening: “You have given everyone the time and respect to get their point of view over. I am here to support the governors and the action group to keep the school open and I am very pleased they will now have the opportunity to turn the school around.”  

Following the decision to stop the closure process Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire’s Corporate Director for the Children and Young People’s Service said: “We have more small rural schools with 50 or fewer pupils than any other county in England and we are committed to supporting them whenever we can – today is further evidence of that.

“This consultation process has delivered new ideas and evidence of increased housing development and initiatives to bring more families into the area that look set to raise pupil numbers across the school. That is critical to attract the Government funds needed to help sustain Clapham’s future. There will be challenges ahead but I really hope this is a turning point for the school which is clearly a very much loved community asset.”