Parents launch fight to save primary school in Whitby with just 24 pupils

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Parents of pupils have started a petition to try to save a Catholic school in North Yorkshire from closure.

The governors of St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School, a voluntary aided school run by the Diocese of Middlesbrough, announced last month it wanted to move ahead with plans to close the school.

St Hilda's Primary School is at risk of being closed down. Credit: Google

St Hilda's Primary School is at risk of being closed down. Credit: Google

St Hilda’s, in Whitby, currently has just 24 pupils, only four of whom are Catholic. Just two children are scheduled to start in the reception class when the 2020/21 school year starts in September - with nine set to move on to secondary schools.

The school originally had the capacity to take 105 children but this was reduced to 74 last year as the number of pupils tumbled.

North Yorkshire County Council has now approved the start of a six-week consultation into the closure of the school. If the closure is approved then St Hilda’s will cease to operate on August 31 this year.

Parents of children in the town are not giving up without a fight, however, and have launched a petition urging people to send their children to the school.

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Nearly 150 people have signed the petition, which has been started by Leanne Coates.

The petition states: “St Hilda’s RC Primary School, Whitby is facing closure. “This will result in the current staff being unemployed and all the pupils having to relocate to other schools.

“We need your support to help keep this school open. If you are are a parent who would like their child to be able to spend regular one to one time with their teacher, for reading, maths and science, then you should consider a visit to see what this fantastic school has to offer.”

The consultation into the proposed closure will start on February 24, with a public meeting held in Whitby on March 3.

A report prepared for the county’s corporate director children and young peoples’ service and executive member meeting yesterday noted that even if St Hilda’s was to close Whitby would still have a surplus of more than 250 school places.

Taking into account proposed housing developments it is estimated that in 2025 Whitby, again without St Hilda’s, would still have 229 available school places.

The county council report also warned that due to the falling pupil numbers, the school is now estimated to have a deficit of £127,000 by the end of the 2022 school year.

The report added: “The Diocese has confirmed that there is no evidence to support the continuation of Catholic education in Whitby, as there appear to be no other Catholic children seeking to attend the school.”

A separate staff consultation process will run in parallel with the consultation on the closure proposal.

County councillors have five days to call-in the decision to start the consultation. If it is called in then the decision to consult on the closure would be looked at and voted on again.

To view the petition, click here.