New bid to save Burton-in-Lonsdale school from the axe

First published in News by , Reporter

AN UNDER-threat North Yorkshire primary school has been given a stay of execution.

Richard Thornton CE primary school, Burton-in-Lonsdale, was threatened with closure after pupil numbers dropped to 13 over the last few years.

It was claimed the drop had made the school’s future unviable and also raised fears that the quality of education would not be preserved as numbers continued to decrease.

Plans to close the school at the end of this school year were announced late last year but were met with strong local opposition.

And now, following a lengthy public consultation, governors have announced they will not proceed with the closure while ‘investigating an alternative option’.

Headteacher Chris Norris said the local authority could still go ahead with its own closure but admitted that there was a possible scenario which would see the school remain open.

Remaining tight-lipped over what alternative was being considered, he said: “Everyone is working very hard to find a solution but obviously it’s not finalised and there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Ian Thompson, chairman of Burton-in-Lonsdale Parish Council, said governors were not allowed to project a negative budget so they either have to find money, or reduce costs.

“Everybody is very pleased but it’s too early to feel relieved,” he said. “It’s the effect on the village that worries us. If there’s not a school it would change the social fabric of the village and we want to keep the village alive.”

But Mr Norris said governors could post a ‘permissable deficit’, which means they must convince the local authority that within two years they could ‘reasonably predict’ a positive budget.

A public meeting in December heard that 17 more pupils would be needed to ‘balance the books’ and revealed that in 2015 the school would be £25,000 in the red based on projected pupil numbers.

That deficit was predicted to rise to £70,000 by 2016 as the school makes a loss of around £45,000 per year.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire County Council said it was now considering the governors’ decision not to proceed with statutory proposals’.

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