A ‘FULLY developed’ action plan has been put in place for previously ‘outstanding’ Clapham CoE Primary School after it was put into special measures by Ofsted.

The report, which found the school ‘inadequate’ in all areas, was published last week, days after the school re-opened for the new school year, after parents and the community had rallied round to stop it being closed by North Yorkshire County Council due to a fall in numbers.

A community action group was formed to fight the closure and to pursue a sustainable future for the school, which has 28 pupils on its roll.

The county council says it has been working with the action group, staff, governors and the Anglican Diocese of Leeds and has brought in new leadership and teaching staff.

Ofsted found there had been a ‘significant decline’ in the standard of teaching over time, that safeguarding arrangements were ineffective and that governors had not held held leaders to account. The behaviour of a small number of pupils was poorly managed, leadership for children with special educational needs was ineffective, and teaching was weak across a range of subjects and years.

Lead inspector Karine Hendley, while acknowledging the school had faced ‘considerable challenges through instability of leadership and staffing turbulence’ and a ‘consultation for closure’, said leaders had failed to mitigate the issues.

The report did, however, say the school was strong its music and physical education and that teachers were ‘passionate’ about pupils learning about the cultural heritage of the Dales, making connections between conservation, farming and healthy eating and cooking.

The county council has brokered leadership arrangements with the Priestley Academy Trust and brought in an executive head teacher Mathew Atkinson, currently head at Westbourne Primary School in Bradford. With experience with small rural schools and leading schools out of special measures, he will be supported by a new head of school, Adam Kay, who has been seconded from his post as deputy head at Westbourne, and two new, full time teachers.

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, NYCC’s lead member for education and skills, said: “Considerable investment and energy has been expended in setting up these arrangements in recent months which we believe will take the school forward to provide the high quality teaching and learning we want for all our children.

“The county council is committed to the sustainability of North Yorkshire’s rural communities and to supporting its village schools whenever possible – proven by the fact we have more small rural schools with 50 or fewer pupils than any other county in England. But we must ensure that our schools provide the best education possible whatever their size, so in Clapham we are all pulling together to that end.”

Marilyn Galpin, the school’s acting chairman of governors said: “The new leadership has been working very effectively with governors over the summer break and has reached out to the community action group for help in several areas. The leadership has a genuine, can-do attitude and this has reinvigorated support from the community.”

Mathew Atkinson, Clapham’s executive head, in a letter to parents said: “Governors, together with the local authority and the diocese had already identified many of the areas that Ofsted has highlighted as areas for improvement. Staff care deeply about the pupils and families of (the school) and we will work together to ensure that children receive the high-quality education that they deserve and that all children are supported to reach their potential. We hope that you, as parents and carers, will continue to support us with this aim.”

The county council says it will now work with the diocese and the Regional Schools Commissioner over the next year to explore arrangements for the school into the long-term.

“The Ofsted judgement is obviously disappointing and finding the right path is vital for a sustainable future,” said Richard Noake, Diocesan Director of Education.

Zoe Richardson, chairman of the Friends of Clapham School said: “Parents of children at the school see the Ofsted findings as drawing a line under the past challenges and pointing a way forward. The report on the school last year does not come as a surprise; we were told the school was no longer outstanding when it was threatened with closure and recognise the challenges small rural schools face.

“We now expect the governors, the new school leadership and the local authority to bring about the improvements that Ofsted calls for. The school has already made many positive changes since the inspection and we see the report as a route-map for the school to return to its former strength.”