Tiny Yorkshire Dales school will close after campaigners lose their final fight

Yorkshire Dales.  PIC: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
Yorkshire Dales. PIC: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority
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A tiny school which has been at the heart of a Yorkshire Dales community for the last 300 years will close its doors for good next month after an appeal to overturn the decision was thrown out.

Villagers desperately hoped to save the Church of England primary in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, near Settle, launching a campaign and putting together a detailed case to keep it open.

But despite more than 50 protesters presenting their argument to independent schools adjudicator David Lennard Jones last month, a decision was made to back North Yorkshire County Council.

Co-chair of governors Nicky Rhodes, who has two children at the school, said: “It’s the end of the road now. We had hoped for an impartial decision but we don’t think that really happened.

“We can’t fight the whole government, we are just one community. There is a feeling of social injustice and community loss.

“There was so much potential. Last week we had a family of three look around the school, who said they would send their children if it remained open and we had potentially eight new pupils starting next year. It’s a short-sighted view.”

In a statement released 
yesterday, a spokesperson for the county council, which made the initial decision to close the school due to it having just 12 pupils on the roll, said it had done so with a “heavy heart”.

The spokesperson said: “The schools adjudicator has upheld the county council’s decision, sharing its overriding concerns about its financial viability and as a result the quality and breadth of education that Horton could continue to provide.

“The county council takes no comfort or satisfaction from a decision which sees the closure of a village school.”

An ancient settlement once ruled by rival monastic orders, Horton-in-Ribblesdale’s rich 
history has for centuries revolved around its tiny village school. Established with an endowment in 1725, it was to grow over time and has earned its affections in the hearts of the generations of families schooled there.

Mrs Rhodes said the news of the closure is still raw and families in the village, including her own, were now in a tough situation. She said: “We moved here because it meant an enormous amount for my family to be able to walk to school. Because I’m disabled, it meant my husband was able to commit to his job and know the children could attend school without it taking too much out of his work day. Now we are back to the same situation and we don’t know what to do for the best.

“We are not alone; every family now up this valley is now trying to figure out how to manage what’s best for their children. We don’t know if there is any transport available if the children are going to different schools. We don’t know what will happen to the building. To be honest, it’s all very raw and we are in shock.”

On Saturday The Yorkshire Post revealed that a funding crisis gripping schools across rural parts of the region has led to grave fears that countryside communities will witness a succession of closures as financial deficits spiral and pupil numbers dramatically reduce.

In the past six months, four small schools in North Yorkshire have closed and two more are under consideration.

Documents have revealed every school in the area with pupil numbers between 20 and 30 is to start the coming academic year in financial deficit. And the area’s director of children’s services, Pete Dwyer, has admitted he cannot rule out further closures.