'Recovery plan' lifeline as fate of under-threat Yorkshire Dales school looms

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save a rural school in the Yorkshire Dales have been thrown a lifeline to prevent its closure after councillors were given the option of backing a new recovery plan.

Clapham Primary School.

Clapham Church of England Primary School could shut on August 31 this year, with residents fearing a knock-on effect to the rural community.

North Yorkshire County Council ran a public consultation on the closure plans which ended on April 4, with a follow-up meeting planned last week, but due to the level of feedback – more than 200 individual responses – the gathering has been delayed until Tuesday next week.

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The council says the number of children attending Clapham Primary is down from 42 in 2014/15 to just 28 and that combined with financial pressures and an inability to secure a “substantive” headteacher brought into question the school’s sustainability.

But in their consultation response, campaigners with the Clapham School Action Group put forward evidence that new housing plans in the area could increase pupil numbers to more than 30 in coming years.

They argued that this “fundamentally changes the financial basis on which the consultation plan is formed”.

Respondents also raised concerns of the impact closure would have on the community – including the village shop relying on trade before and after school hours and on the elderly who use the site as a place to have lunch once a month.

The report drafted for the meeting asks executive members to consider two options.

Firstly, to go ahead with closure and extend the catchment area of both Austwick Church of England Primary School and Bentham Community Primary School. Or secondly, to cease closure plans and allow the school’s Governing Body to implement a recovery plan.

Iain Crossley, chairman of the action group, which has worked with governors, said: “Clapham School governors have access to new information about the prospects for the school and we understand they now wish to stop the closure process.

“We are pleased that for the first time councillors have been given the option to stop a closure and keep Clapham Primary School open.”

The recovery plan draws on pupil estimates revised by the governors and action group – the latter say there could be 38 by 2022/23 due to housing plans, including those at the Ingleborough Estate – and local contributions to the Clapham Educational Fund.

Last week Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire’s Corporate Director for the Children and Young People’s Service, said he was “very aware of the crucial role village schools play in the life of their communities” and acknowledged the “huge amount of work” by residents to keep the school open.