The fate of a Yorkshire Dales primary school contemplating a future with just six pupils has once again plunged into uncertainty as another consultation on its closure has been confirmed.
Clapham Church of England Primary School was rated inadequate following an Ofsted inspection earlier this year and is also facing severe financial pressures, with a predicted deficit of more than £250,000.
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, while a recovery plan was put in place in April.
But according to North Yorkshire County Council, which begins consulting again on January 10 next year after being approached by governors, the school now has ten pupils but from September 2020 is expected to have only six.
Governors said the school’s staff was making the changes needed to come out of special measures, but the school was “simply no longer viable”, said the authority.
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The council added that the Ofsted rating and deficit meant it was unlikely a school or academy sponsor would come on board.
County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “We take this step with great sadness. Many people, key members of the community, families, stakeholders and professional colleagues have fought long and hard to find solutions to keep Clapham school viable.
“But with a cluster of good primary schools nearby, maintaining pupil numbers proved difficult. We know village schools play an incredibly important role in communities and will always go the extra mile to keep them going wherever possible. North Yorkshire has more small schools than any other authority in England and more than 50 schools with fewer than 50 pupils.
"We have to consider whether, in the circumstances, keeping this school open is in the best interests of local children, hence we will be consulting over its closure.”
A statement from the school’s governors said they would be “continuing to make sure that the remaining pupils have the best possible education in a safe and nurturing environment for the rest of this academic year”.
That would continue to be their priority in the coming months, they said.
Meanwhile, the county council has put in place an interim executive board to support staff to bring about “necessary and rapid improvement in standards for children in the school”.
As previously reported, if it closes, Clapham would be the ninth small school to have closed in North Yorkshire in around two years.