Two struggling rural Yorkshire schools facing closure

The plight of Yorkshire's rural schools is set to deepen after two more primaries were earmarked for closure due to dwindling pupil numbers and rising debts.

Pupils, parents, and supporters at Horton Primary School, in the Yorkshire Dales, which is set to close. Two more North Yorkshire schools have now been earmarked for closure.
Pupils, parents, and supporters at Horton Primary School, in the Yorkshire Dales, which is set to close. Two more North Yorkshire schools have now been earmarked for closure.

A proposal to merge Swainby and Potto CE Primary and Ingleby Arncliffe CE Primary, between Northallerton and Stokesley, has now been scrapped after the schools were deemed no longer viable.

North Yorkshire County Council is now planning to close both on December 31 this year and a consultation is set to end on June 9.

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While villagers have been left upset at the plans, the chairman of Ingleby Arncliffe Parish Council, Clive Walley, said: “We are disappointed in the sense the church village schools are an important part of the community, but we have got to be realistic.

“There are falling role numbers and it’s inevitable due to the financial pressure. So they are going to have to close and it’s a great shame. It’s very sad. It’s a story being repeated in many Yorkshire villages.”

The deputy chairman of Swainby-Whorlton Parish Council, Alistair Wright, added: “It goes without saying that there are a lot of families that have been affected by this and it has caused a lot of disappointment and heartache.”

The schools were originally part of the Mount Grace 
Federation, which also included Osmotherley Community Primary School; however, this was dissolved in January.

A collaboration between Swainby and Potto and Ingleby Arncliffe has continued, with staff and resources being shared and an interim headteacher presiding over both schools. But consultation documents produced by governors have outlined four key concerns over their viability – low pupil numbers, breadth of curriculum the schools’ financial position and leadership.

Swainby and Potto has only nine pupils on roll, despite being able to accommodate up to 84, and Ingleby Arncliffe has 10 against a capacity of 86, with numbers predicted to fall further.

This academic year the county council has also forecast a financial deficit across the two schools of £56,900, rising to £257,000 in 2019/20. Changes to school funding formulas, with funding more closely tied to pupil numbers, means the schools’ financial vulnerability is likely to continue to deteriorate, the county council said. There are also fears the struggling schools would not be able to recruit a permanent headteacher.

The proposals would see the catchment for surrounding schools extended to allow pupils to go to others in the area, including Hutton Rudby, Carlton and Faceby and Appleton Wiske.

Pete Dwyer, North Yorkshire’s director of the children and young people’s services, said: “Nobody likes to see the closure of a village school. The county council is very aware of the crucial role they play in the life of their communities and are very committed to their support.

“But in very small schools, the county council, along with the diocese in this case, has a responsibility to look into the quality and breadth of education that they can provide and for their financial viability.”

North Yorkshire has the highest number of small schools in England, with 50 having fewer than 50 pupils. Parents are fighting a decision to close Horton-in-Ribblesdale School in the Yorkshire Dales.