A LONG-standing primary school at the heart of a South Lakeland community is under the threat of closure.

Falling pupil numbers and a lack of local young families have been blamed for the potential closure of Heversham St Peter’s CE School in Leasgill.

Parents at the 15-pupil school were told about the decision this week following a consultation process.

Subject to final ratification, the school is expected to close at the end of the summer term in August.

If the school closes pupils are likely to be transferred to either Levens CE School or Milnthorpe Primary School.

Suzanne Edmondson, headteacher of both Heversham St Peters C Of E Primary School and St Patrick's CE School, Endmoor, said it was important for staff to carry on as normal as possible for the children's sake.

"It's a lovely school, and this is a lovely community," she said. "The staff are really hardworking, and the children are very dedicated.

"[The possible closure] is perhaps going on in the background but the staff are continuing with their jobs and children are getting on with learning as normal, and that's how it should be."

The Diocese of Carlisle’s The Good Shepherd Multi Academy Trust (MAT), which runs the school, has recommended the closure and said it had explored 'all possible ways' to support it but added 'no viable options had been identified'.

Despite having a capacity for 105 pupils, the school currently has only 15 on roll with no children in Reception and Year One - and no foreseeable significant increase in numbers in the future.

This represents a fall in roll from 88 pupils in September 2011 and means funding generated by the current number of pupils is not sufficient for the school to be financially viable.

Jane Clarke, chair of the local governing board, said: “There has been a church school in Heversham since 1838 and it has been a valued part of the local community.

"However, in recent years the nature of the village has changed; there are very few young families and this seems set to continue, as demonstrated by Cumbria County Council’s projections. There is a choice of good village schools in the wider area, all of which have vacancies. It is very sad to think of the school closing but it is hard to see any alternative."

The voluntary-aided school was joint top performer in Cumbria in the 2016 SATs results, with 100 per cent of children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.

Michael Mill, acting chief executive of the MAT, said: "Heversham Primary has enjoyed excellent exam success. The parents are very proud, rightfully so, of the school and its good curriculum but it would have been increasingly difficult to maintain that in the future."

Following the recommendation for closure, the trust will contact the Regional Schools’ Commissioner to recommend that the funding agreement for the school be ended.

The commissioner, alongside the headteachers’ board, will then consider the proposal before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Education for final ratification.

The Trust will continue to keep parents, staff and community stakeholders informed throughout the process and will work with the local authority to help ease the transfer of the existing pupils to other local schools according to parental wishes in the event that the closure is confirmed.

Mr Mill said: "There are a number of schools located relatively close at Milnthorpe and Levens. The other schools in the area have places in most of the year groups.

"We try keep things as normal as possible so the pupils can continue to have a good education."

He added: "The trust is very keen on to try retain the school building as some sort of educational facility. It may not be a school but we will be working with Cumbria County Council to keep the building as some kind of educational provision in Heversham."

Local councillor Roger Bingham, a former student, said: "I spent eight happy years at the school. I went on to study at Cambridge but the foundation was laid by the excellent education I received at Leasgill.

"I have the greatest respect towards the efforts made by the staff, the governors, the teachers and parents. They have done their best."