Decision to be announced on future of Dales primary schools

West Burton Primary School.

A decision on the future structure of three Dales primary schools is expected to be announced tomorrow.

The governors of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton primary schools have been deciding on how the schools will operate from September.

It had been feared at least one of the schools could have to close because of falling pupil numbers and financial difficulties faced by the organisation which runs the schools, the BAWB Federation.

However, a new funding formula announced recently by the Government means education chiefs believe it will be possible to keep all three schools open for now, with three small, rural schools set to benefit significantly from the new arrangement.

A public engagement process on the future of the schools has taken place, however the execrsie has been criticised.

Earlier this month, members of Bainbridge Parish Council raised concerns that they had not been invited to the drop-in events.

They said they believed the outcome was a “done deal” before the engagement process had taken place.

They were unhappy there was only ten working days between the submissions being made and the decision announced.

The response from Burton-Cum-Walden Parish Council, seen by Richmondshire Today, is also critical of the process.

The authority also raised concerns about the short amount of time available for the communities involved to comment.

It said: “Two of our councillors attended the community engagement event and submitted comments as individuals, but there was no opportunity, within the time frame provided, for the parish council as a body to discuss the matter, to listen to the views of parents and other interested parties, and to submit a considered opinion.”

The council said it felt that information at appeared to be skewed towards certain conclusions, with West Burton School faring worse than the other two schools despite recent glowing Ofsted report.

Five options for the structure of the three schools were put forward

These are:

Option 1

This was the initial proposal presented by the headteacher and governors in the summer
term 2016: combine West Burton’s KS2 children with the current arrangements at Askrigg so
that there would be:

  • 2 classes at Bainbridge (the EYFS and KS1 children of Bainbridge and Askrigg)
  • 2 classes at Askrigg (the Y3/4 and the Y5/6 children of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West

    Burton)

  • 1 class at West Burton (the EYFS and KS1 children of West Burton)

5 classes in total

Option 3

Reduce the number of classes at Askrigg to 1, meaning that there would be a Y3-6 class at
both Askrigg and West Burton:

  • 2 classes at Bainbridge (the EYFS and KS1 children of Bainbridge and Askrigg)
  • 1 class at Askrigg (the Y3/4/5/6 children of Bainbridge and Askrigg)
  • 2 classes at West Burton (EYFS/KS1 and Y3/4/5/6 children of West Burton only)

5 classes in total

Option 6

Combine and transport all of the federation’s children within the following structure:

  • BAWB EYFS and KS1 at Bainbridge (in 2 classes)
  • BAWB Y3/4 at West Burton
  • BAWB Y5/6 at Askrigg

4 Classes in total

Option 7

Combine and transport all of the federation’s children within the following structure:

  • BAWB EYFS at Bainbridge
  • BAWB KS1 at West Burton
  • BAWB Y3/4 and Y5/6 at Askrigg (in 2 classes)

4 Classes in total

Option 8

  • 2 classes at Bainbridge (the EYFS and KS1 children of Bainbridge, Askrigg, and West Burton)
  • 1 class at Askrigg (the Y3/4/5/6 children of Bainbridge and Askrigg)
  • 1 class at West Burton (KS2 children of West Burton)

4 Classes in total

Of these, option 7 has been recommended as the best by the governing body.

They say it offers one of the better financial solutions and has several other advantages.

However, West Burton councillors felt that while there was no ideal solution, their preferred option was 3, as it seemed to be the closest to the existing arrangements which they said seemed to have worked reasonably well so far and would involve the least bussing of children about the Dales.

The parish council said it endorsed the submission of Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie who said option 7  would be “self-defeating” as concerned parents would remove their children from the schools with the resulting adverse financial impact.

Cllr Blackie said: “If Option 7, the recommended option is selected, then it will be the catalyst for a number of pupils to leave the BAWB schools, some as early as September 2018, to begin or complete their primary education at either Hawes or Leyburn Primary Schools.

“The assumptions that numbers on roll will remain the same, an assumption that underpins the financial profile of Option 7, is entirely false because the numbers will go down.

“The Governors (and the LEA) will see the arguments in the feedback forms they are soon to analyse, but put simply the key issue is that a number of parents in each of the 3 schools consider the amount of bussing around Upper Wensleydale completely unacceptable.

“The best option to maintain the current numbers on roll at each of the schools and to increase them in the future is Option 3. This is my selected option.”