Parents of children attending a Dales primary school have been told the school will not be allowed to leave a federation with two other schools.
The governors of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton (BAWB) schools have voted against allowing the Bishopdale school to leave the federation.
BAWB refused a first request made by parents and members of the West Burton community to defederate in July last year.
Parents then asked the governors to reconsider their decision, however BAWB again rejected the option at a meeting last night.
In an email advising of the decision, Charlotte Harper, executive head of the three schools, said: “Our many and varied reasons for this decision are largely in line with those given when we made the original decision in July, though a detailed document containing our full reasons will be published within 10 days of today.
“We sincerely hope that we can continue to work together in the interests of our children and focus our energies on ensuring that we continue to deliver a high quality education for all of our children.”
The announcement has been greeted with dismay by Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie, who has been involved in the discussions around the defederation proposal.
He said: “The BAWB board of governors have made a decision that flies in the face of compelling evidence that unless it allowed West Burton Primary School to defederate it would be on a very fast track to closing its doors once and for all.
“My view is clear that this is a travesty of a decision recklessly made without thinking of the consequences, and I hold the board responsible for overseeing the demise in the future sustainability of the communities served by the school and more widely in the Upper Dales, especially as they are already under threat by the flood of local young families with children voting with their feet to leave for good.”
Cllr Blackie said the board had received the “strongest recommendation” from the county council to allow the defederation.
He said firm pledges amounting to just under £100,000 over three years had been made from residents in the area served by West Burton Primary School and beyond who were prepared to invest in keeping the school open.
He added: “It had a shadow board of highly talented individuals ready to commit heart and soul to making the success of a stand-alone school that had failed to materialise under the BAWB federation, which had overseen a decline in numbers from 44 pupils just before joining up to 21 pupils today.
“It had the overwhelming majority of parents at the school signed up to fully supporting defederation.
“It beggars belief that the BAWB board of governors has chosen to ignore this utterly persuasive case and evidence made out in favour of defederation.”
Sue Ryding is a resident of West Burton and had volunteered to be a shadow member of a new governing body that would have run the school had the defederation been approved.
She said: “We are very disappointed and feel sorry for the parents and for the other members of the group who have all worked very hard to seek Independence for the school.
“The future prospects for the school don’t look very good.”
Attending last night’s meeting were senior officials from the county council, corporate director for children and young people Stuart Carlton, Judith Kirk, assistant director for education and skills, and Andrew Dixon, strategic planning manager, who were there to answers the governors questions.
North Yorkshire county councillor Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills, said: “We have always made it clear that the decision about de-federation was one for the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton governing body.
“While we are supportive of federations, in this case, after a great deal of consideration, we did recommend that West Burton Primary School be allowed to de-federate in the knowledge that the final decision rested with the governing body.”
The headteacher said a secret ballot to arrive at the decision following a “significant period of due diligence and a thorough exploration of evidence and viewpoint”.
The West Burton community began to push for defederation after the governing board decided in May last year to remodel the federation in order to address the challenges they face around lower pupil numbers and finances.
BAWB governors said that that their agreed option – which followed two separate consultations and which involves nursery, reception and key stage 1 classes on the Bainbridge site with key stage 2 classes divided between Askrigg and West Burton – provided the best educational and financial advantages.
The board of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton (BAWB) said last year that it made the decision not to allow the defederation for financial and education reasons.
The board said it believed that keeping all schools within the federation was the best option for the pupils, the schools and the community.
The county council told Richmondshire Today that West Burton School had a roll of 23 in September 2017 and 20 in September 2018.
You can read the original reasons for the decision to reject the defederation request here.