Closure of Dales primary school confirmed

The former Arkengarthdale Primary School.

Arkengarthdale Church of England Primary School will close at the end of the school year, the county council has confirmed.

The school’s governing body wrote to North Yorkshire’s director of the children and young people’s service, Stuart Carlton, late last year to request the county council begin consulting on a proposal to close the school at the end of the current academic year.

Pupil numbers had fallen to an unsustainable level despite all efforts to attract more children to the school.

The school’s closure has now been confirmed.

Charles Cody, Arkengarthdale’s chair of governors, said: “We took this step with very heavy hearts as nobody wants to see the closure of a village school, especially one that is the heart of this small community and has been with us for 360 years.

“But there are only five children on roll and we simply do not have numbers of children in the dale and the area to keep this school open.”

Cllr Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s executive member for education and skills, said: “We have done everything possible to support the school and its governors to sustain school provision for the dale.

“The governors know all their families extremely well and are very knowledgeable about the area, but it appears there simply are not the children out there for the foreseeable future to keep this school going.

The county council has agreed to extend the catchment area of Reeth Community Primary School, 3.5 miles away, with effect from September 1 2019 to serve the area currently served by Arkengarthdale

Mr Cody added: “Reeth is also a very good school and we are supporting parents and children all the way to make a good transition.

“Despite our great sadness, the whole Arkengarthdale community will be coming together in July to celebrate the school’s long history.  All who have a connection with the school, both past and present are welcome.”

In a bid to make Arkengarthdale sustainable and to retain or attract young families to the area, the Upper Dales Community Land Trust recently secured planning approval for the very first social housing in the dale.  However, this has come too late to save the school.

County Cllr John Blackie, local member for the Upper Dales and chair of the trust, said the plans were intended to provide housing for young families.

However, he accepted it was impossible to fight to keep the school open given the very low numbers on roll predicted for the next two years.

He said:  “In 21 years of being the local County Councillor this is the first of our seven primary schools here to close and I very much hope it will be the last.  We are born fighters not quitters here in the Upper Dales but the battle has already been lost, and so quickly as 5 years ago there were over 30 pupils on the roll at the School.

“Arkengarthdale Primary School will proudly remain a centre of educational excellence to the very day it closes its doors for good, and has been an institution faithfully serving its deeply rural community for 360 years.

“Sadly though its stock-in-trade, the children who have graced its classrooms and corridors over its distinguished history, are no longer present in the Dale.”