Tiny primary school in Yorkshire Dales faces the axe for a second time

There are just ten pupils left in the primary school in Clapham, North Yorkshire
There are just ten pupils left in the primary school in Clapham, North Yorkshire
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A Dales school with just ten pupils which was saved from closure this year once again faces the axe after its governors said it was “simply no longer viable”.

Staff and pupils at Clapham Church of England Primary School in Craven were told on Monday there was “no option” but to again consult on the closure of the school.

An earlier public consultation on closure in February sparked a huge reaction, with villagers setting up a campaign group and raising £15,000 in just a few days.

However the school has since suffered a series of blows with Ofsted inspectors, who visited in June, giving the previously outstanding school the lowest possible rating of “inadequate”.

The school also faces an estimated deficit of £250,000 and an “unforseen and rapid” decline of pupil numbers, which could leave it with just six pupils from September 2020.

Governors said while the headteacher and staff were making the changes needed to come out of special measures, the school was facing multiple pressures.

The Ofsted rating - coupled with the six-figure deficit – meant it unlikely a school or academy sponsor would be willing to enter into a potential partnership.

Acting Chair of Governors, Janet Booth, said they had made the decision with “heavy hearts”.

She said: “After battling for some time to secure a future for Clapham primary, we feel we have now exhausted all avenues and are faced with no option but to consult on the closure of the school.

“We have made this decision with heavy hearts, but we feel the situation has reached a point where the pupils’ best interests will be best served by finding alternative provision.

“The Governors wish to put on record their gratitude to the staff and parents of pupils who remained at the school for their commitment and thank the community for its support. We share their sadness that the recovery - which looked so encouraging just a few weeks ago - has fallen away.”

If the axe falls on Clapham, it will be the ninth small school to have closed in North Yorkshire in just two years.

Concern has been raised about the impact on the local community.

The Friends of the Dales charity said it was concerned the closure of the school would further reduce the sustainability of the local community.

The charity’s executive director Ann Shadrake said: “If this consultation does result in the school closing, our concern primarily would be about the impact on the community and the ability to attract young families to the area.”

In April, a recovery plan was put into place with the support of North Yorkshire County Council.

It attempted to place the school on a viable footing by reintroducing early years provision, wraparound care and a recovery in standards, but with a cluster of good primary schools nearby, increasing pupil numbers proved difficult.

North Yorkshire County Council is expected to consider the request for consultation in December. If approved a public consultation will begin early next year.

People would be able to express their views during the consultation and before a final decision was taken.