Ampleforth: C of E primary school that has served Yorkshire village since 1890 could close as it has just 13 pupils

A C of E primary school in a rural village which now has just 13 pupils could close due to the financial challenges involved in keeping it open.

St Hilda’s C of E Primary School in Ampleforth is likely to have no new starters joining the reception class in September and has not had more than 36 children on the roll for the past 15 years.

Opened in 1890, it moved to its current site in the 1960s and is affiliated with St Hilda’s Church.

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The school’s governing body approached North Yorkshire Council to request a consultation on closure, and this week it was announced that it would proceed.

Ampleforth is on the edge of the Howardian Hills and the North York Moors National ParkAmpleforth is on the edge of the Howardian Hills and the North York Moors National Park
Ampleforth is on the edge of the Howardian Hills and the North York Moors National Park

The Howardian Hills have seen a decline in rural school places, as last year Hovingham C of E Primary also closed due to low pupil numbers. It had educated children of the estate village for 150 years and was originally funded by the Worsley family of Hovingham Hall.

Coun Amanda Wilkinson said: “A decision to consult on potentially closing a school is always an extremely hard one to have to make. No-one wants to be in this position. North Yorkshire maintains more small, rural schools than any other local authority in the country. Sadly, the reality is that many of our schools, particularly those in rural areas, are seeing pupil numbers reduce year-on-year. Projected pupil numbers indicate that St Hilda’s Church of England Primary School in Ampleforth faces a challenging financial position.

“As numbers fall, it is increasingly difficult to provide the remaining pupils with access to a full range of experiences and the quality of education they require. Sadly, delaying to take action is simply not an option anymore.”

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The consultation to close the school will begin on March 1 and run for six weeks and will include a public meeting. The council’s executive is then due to consider the consultation feedback in May.

If the proposed closure is approved at the end of the required process, then St Hilda’s Church of England Primary School would shut on August 31.

Parents have already launched a campaign for the school to remain open, with some saying their children have seen the benefits of smaller class sizes.

Rural school closures have been blamed on high house values in scenic areas pricing out young families. The Howardian Hills were named the best place to live in the north by The Sunday Times in 2020, when the average price of a small starter home was already £200,000. Ampleforth’s proximity to the public school Ampleforth College has created a property premium in the village.

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