County council urged to mediate to secure future of Dales school

West Burton Primary School.

Richmondshire District Council has called on the county council to work harder to secure the future of a rural school saying it is “vital” for the community’s future.

The district authority has written to North Yorkshire County Council to urge the education authority to step up its efforts over the future of West Burton Church of England Primary School.

Concerns have been mounting over the viability of the Yorkshire Dales school since 2016, when it federated with others in Bainbridge and Askrigg.

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Campaigners in West Burton believe the village school is under imminent threat of closure after the governing body of all three schools moved to remodel the federation to address challenges surrounding pupil numbers and finances.

Governors want the schools to offer nursery, reception and key stage 1 classes on the Bainbridge site and key stage 2 classes at Askrigg and West Burton, but the campaigners say they would lead parents to move their children to other schools.

Earlier this month, the schools’ governing body said it could not support the wishes of community members and parents at West Burton school to defederate.

Campaigners have now proposed that West Burton school stays within the federation, but that moving pupils between sites is ended alongside a three-year moratorium over its closure.

Ahead of the county council mediating between the governing body and the campaigners, the Richmondshire council said the loss of the school would represent a blow to its ongoing drive to increase the number of young people living in the national park.

Richmondshire council’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said having a primary school in the area was a leading consideration for parents when choosing where to live and had been identified alongside employment opportunities and affordable housing as key to reversing the declining population of young people.

She said: “If we lose our schools then people are not going to want to come and live in Wensleydale.

“For a lot of young families, having a village school in the area where you live is very important.

“It is all part of the community from which children learn – children certainly don’t need to be isolated from their community.”

Cllr Peacock said demand for the West Burton school was set to rise following the largest housing development to be approved in the national park since 2014 having been given the go-ahead in April.

She said the 17 homes scheme in West Witton was in the West Burton school’s catchment area and would feature affordable housing for sale and to rent to maximise the number of young families able to live there.

Cllr Peacock said: “We want to see the county council taking a more active part in mediating over the school. We don’t want the rug pulled from under us before we have got our plans to attract families to the area up and running.”

1 Comment

  1. This drive to keep West Burton school open at all costs seems to be driven by a few unwilling to compromise and is built on some unproven premise that the housing approved at West Witton will be it’s salvation. They have no control over who will live there and whether they will have children of the right age to go to the school! My guess is the parents Will take them to Leyburn or where ever they will need to travel for work. As they won’t be able to afford the affordable housing without working. So West Witton villagers and businesses have to accept this deplorable planning decision in the hope that a few more children will materialise to keep the School open and then what!! Pity they don’t have a massive affordable housing scheme at West Burton.

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