Threatened village school could close within months because of falling numbers

Richard Thornton CE Primary faces fresh closure threat

Richard Thornton CE Primary faces fresh closure threat

First published in News
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BURTON-in-Lonsdale's village school could be closed by the end of the summer – despite strong opposition from the local community.

A stay of execution for Richard Thornton CE Primary, which has just 12 pupils – all boys – on its roll, was agreed in October following a request from its governors.

But North Yorkshire County Council has now decided to press ahead with closure plans because of concerns including falling numbers and the absence of girls.

Statutory closure notices are to be published today and will be followed by a month of consultation before a final decision is made on May 27.

Governors had proposed a shared headteacher role at the school – which has just celebrated its 160th anniversary – with another partner school and integrating the Burton-in-Lonsdale under-fives pre-school more closely with the primary.

But the council, while recognising the governors’ commitment to the school and its community, remained concerned about the financial viability of the proposals.

It was also concerned about the potential for increasing pupil numbers.

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A council spokesman said: “The number of children at Richard Thornton’s has been falling steadily over the last few years and there are now only 12 on roll in a school with a capacity for 90.

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“Forecasts indicate that these numbers will not recover significantly in the longer term and under the current staffing structure the school would need to have at least 29 pupils on roll to be financially sustainable.”

The school is also predicting a budget deficit for 2014/15 of almost £30,000, which is likely to get worse if pupil numbers fail to increase.

“As numbers fall it becomes increasingly difficult, even with existing local partnerships, to provide pupils with the full range of experiences they need, particularly opportunities for working and playing with children of their own age, and for having a good gender balance,” added the spokesman.

“It also becomes increasingly difficult to preserve the quality and breadth of education required.”

The council also fears a decision to defer closure for 12 months would be likely to result in more children leaving the school.

Coun Arthur Barker, executive member for schools, said: “The closure of any school, and in particular one which serves a small and rural community, is always deeply regrettable and not one which is reached lightly or hurriedly.

“North Yorkshire works extremely hard to support its small schools, but pupil numbers at Richard Thornton’s CE Primary School have reached a critical level and in such circumstances we have to consider the necessity of providing pupils with the full range of social and educational experiences they need.”

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