Another rural Yorkshire primary school applies for closure after pupil numbers dwindle to just 11

Another primary school in rural North Yorkshire looks set to close after pupil numbers dropped to unsustainable levels.

Governors at Fountains Earth C of E Primary School in Lofthouse, Nidderdale, said that they have decided with a 'heavy heart' to begin the process of applying for consultation for closure.

The school has just 11 pupils on its register, with the same number due to attend in September 2023.

School leaders said the lack of pupils means sustaining a varied, thorough curriculum and the education they wish to deliver to each of their children is impossible, due to the lack of age-appropriate peers and the wide age range across the class. They added the small number of pupils also makes providing the necessary social and emotional experience for each child very challenging.

Fountains Earth C of E Primary School in Nidderdale is set to close

Chair of governors Abi Broadley said: “Despite the best efforts of our headteacher, staff and governors, we cannot overcome the challenges of having such low pupil numbers.

“Our pupil numbers have been declining over the last few years and we now have just 11 children. We understand there is no sign of the school population growing significantly in the future.

“With such low pupil numbers and no hope of them dramatically increasing them soon, we will continue to have limited children in each year group. Indeed, some year groups are void of children altogether.

“Our decision has not been taken lightly. We feel that we have exhausted all options to us to provide the right educational, social and emotional provision for our Fountains Earth children.

“A lot of work has been undertaken by our headteacher and team which has improved the situation, but it just isn’t enough due to a lack of pupils.

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“These interventions include introducing a more structured curriculum, structured sessions and interventions from subject lead teachers from across the federation, all in an effort to try to meet educational needs; and Federation Fridays to help to address the social and emotional needs of the children.

“Although Federation Fridays are successful in enriching the lives of our children, they can only cover certain subjects such as personal, social, health and economic PSHE education, music and PE.

“This cannot be a long-term solution and further highlights the fact that our Fountains Earth provision alone does not adequately meet our children’s needs.”

North Yorkshire County Council will consider the request for consultation and the executive member for education and skills, Coun Annabel Wilkinson, will decide whether to approve the proposal.

If the consultation to close the school is agreed, it is likely to start early in the new academic year. It will consist of a six-week period of consultation through the autumn term, which will include a public meeting.

A final decision on closure would be made once the consultation responses had been reviewed. That decision is likely to be made in the spring of next year.

Fountains Earth will remain open throughout the process.

Other small North Yorkshire schools currently under consultation for closure include Weaverthorpe C of E Primary in the Wolds and Naburn C of E Primary near York. Kell Bank C of E Primary near Masham shut in 2021 after pupil numbers fell to six. Clapham C of E Primary in the Dales closed in 2020 and in 2017 the axe fell for village schools in Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Rathmell and Drax.

North Yorkshire has a large number of rural schools with fewer than 50 pupils.