Dales village primary school facing closure amid restructure

West Burton Primary School.

West Burton Primary School is facing closure following a decision by governors to restructure the way a three-school federation operates.

Changes have been announced by the governing board of the BAWB Federation, which runs Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton schools.

At present, EYFS and year 1 are taught at Bainbridge, years 2 and 3 at West Burton and years 4 to 6 at Askrigg.

However, from September children will be taught at Bainbridge and Askrigg, with teaching at West Burton School being “temporarily suspended”.

Governors say the restructure is needed for several reasons.

At present, local authority transport brings the children to their registered school, after which the federation pays for additional transport to take them onwards to the school where they are taught.

However, school leaders say there are “serious drawbacks” to this structure, in particular the time taken to transport the children between the sites and the cost of hiring and staffing the buses.

As well as difficulties finding enough buses to get the children to the right place at the right time, new Department for Education rules require schools to provide a minimum 32.5-hour school week, which the federation says it is unable to provide without reducing transportation times.

Falling pupil numbers at West Burton School have also been put forward as a reasons with 13 children registered in September.

School leaders say this contributes to increasing financial pressures, with the current transportation arrangements costing £56,000 a year.

Vicky Collins, executive headteacher, said: “We have made this difficult decision in the best interests of the children in our care.

“It will allow us to increase the amount of time they spend in the classroom with their teachers and it will reduce the amount of money we currently spend on transport.

“We firmly believe that this is the best solution for all our children, not least the children who are registered at West Burton.

“We can reassure the parents of these children that they will still be transported from West Burton to the school where they will be taught, and that the community of West Burton is still tremendously important to our federation.”

Sue Ryding, BAWB chair of Governors, said: “As Vicky has said, this has been a very difficult decision to make, but we feel that it is the right one for the sake of our children.

“However, we do understand that there will be concern in the community about the future of West Burton School, and the importance of securing good primary education in this area of Wensleydale.

“The temporary suspension of West Burton School can last for up to two years and during this time we will be actively and urgently exploring all the options open to us.

“As soon as we have a clear understanding of the implications of those options, we will then be in a position to consult with parents and the wider community as to
how our federation can go forward.”

The BAWB Federation was launched in 2016 in the hope it would secure the future of all three schools, however two years later parents in West Burton became concerned that their local school would be shut to save money.

Calls were made to defederate the school and for it to run independently, however a report by council officers found this would be difficult, with figures produced that suggested a stand-alone school would face a deficit of £100,000 within four years.

Instead, governors restructured the classes, with different age groups taught at the three different schools, which at the time meant they could all three would stay open.