Two rural North Yorkshire schools set for closure

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A decision looms on whether to shut two rural schools in North Yorkshire which have suffered a dip in pupil numbers, concerns over teaching quality and spiralling financial deficits.

Swainby and Potto Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School and Ingleby Arncliffe Church of England Voluntary Aided Primary School have been recommended for closure.

North Yorkshire County Council chiefs will meet next Tuesday to decide whether the schools – which have recently shared staff and resources – are shut by December 31 this year.

Mick Hannon, who became a governor at the Swainby school in January this year, said there was a “substantial exodus” of parents moving their children from that school over quality concerns in 2015 – it “requires improvement” according to Ofsted.

He took up the position alongside others and hoped to keep at least one of the two sites open.

Mr Hannon, the husband of Whorlton Parish Council chairwoman Dolly Hannon, said: “It’s very sad. I settled here with my Yorkshire wife and our five children went to the local primary school.

“It was a wonderful focus for bringing parents and the community together. It was a marvellous way to develop community spirit. With the school going it really does feel like the heart of the village has been ripped out of it.”

A report drafted for next week’s meeting shows that the proposals to close the schools are driven by very low pupil numbers, the quality of curriculum, their financial position and their interim leadership.

Together they have a predicted a deficit of nearly £57,000 this financial year, rising to £257,000 in 2019/20, based on 20 pupils across the two sites.

But the county council says that as numbers fall below that, the deficit will increase further.

Earlier in the summer there were only 19 pupils in both schools – 10 in Ingleby and nine in Swainby – but it is expected there will be none in either at the beginning of the autumn term, according to the authority.

The recommendation to close comes after a consultation was carried out by the governing bodies of both schools, supported by the Diocese of York.

Coun Patrick Mulligan, the county council’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People service, said: “It is deeply saddening to see the closure of a village school. The county council is very aware of the crucial role village schools play in the life of their communities and is very committed to their support. The fact the county has nearly 50 schools with fewer than 50 pupils is a sign of this commitment.

“The fact the county has nearly 50 schools with fewer than 50 pupils is a sign of this commitment.

“Indeed North Yorkshire has more small schools than any other authority in England.

“But in very small schools, like Ingleby Arncliffe and Swainby and Potto, the county council, along with the diocese in this case, has a responsibility to look into the quality and breadth of education that schools can provide and for their financial viability.”

If the county council’s corporate director and executive members decide on closure, the catchment areas of Carlton and Faceby, Hutton Rudby and Appleton Wiske primaries would be extended to take pupils in.

The meeting will be held at County Hall in Northallerton from 2pm.