Yorkshire Dales community steps up mission to save Clapham Primary School amid decision delay

Clapham Church of England Primary School has been proposed to close on August 31, 2019.
Clapham Church of England Primary School has been proposed to close on August 31, 2019.
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Campaigners fighting the closure of a Yorkshire Dales school are pressing ahead with plans to try and keep it open after a decision on its future was delayed.

Members of the community said they were working with school governors at Clapham Church of England Primary School to ensure it remains open beyond August 31 this year, the date that North Yorkshire County Council has proposed it will shut.

A public consultation on the closure plans ended on April 4 but the county council received so many responses that it has postponed a meeting, which had been due to be held tomorrow[TUES], to discuss the outcome of the exercise.

The meeting is now set to take place in just over a fortnight’s time on April 30.

Iain Crossley, chairman of Clapham Community Action Group which has railed against the closure plans, said: “The impressive response from the community shows the strength of feeling both in Clapham and in the Yorkshire Dales about how important basic services, such as primary schools, are to rural communities.

“It’s clearly frustrating the council has delayed its decision on the school’s future. We are working with the school governors to develop a long-term plan to ensure the school has a sustainable future and recovers from a temporary dip in pupil numbers.”

The council says the number of children attending Clapham Primary is down from 42 in 2014/15 to just 28, and that it expects this number to drop further.

The council says that this situation, combined with financial pressures and an inability to secure a “substantive” headteacher brought into question the school’s sustainability and that this led to school governors reluctantly agreeing to a consultation on its closure.

The action group claims that the council’s projections under-estimate future pupil numbers due to new housing and affordable, rented housing developments in the areas.

Confirming that a decision on the consultation had been postponed, Andrew Dixon, strategic planning manager for the children and young people’s service at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “Given the important decision before the Executive and the high volume of responses from the community, we have postponed the meeting to consider the future of the school.

“It is only right that we allow sufficient time to explore the various issues raised by these responses before any decision is taken.”

Last week, representatives from the Community Action Group and school governors met county councillor Patrick Mulligan, the council’s executive member for education and skills, to discuss possible options available to support small rural primary schools, and the governors met to plan the implementation of a “recovery plan”.

Jill Gates, a member of the community action group, said: “It is in the best interests of the children to ensure we plan for next year and not be distracted by a consultation process which should never have been launched.”

The county council said it will publish a response to its consultation on Monday next week[APRIL 22] ahead of the meeting of its decision-making executive body on April 30.