Local authority accused of “impartiality” over Dales school defederation request

West Burton Primary School.

The governors of three Dales primary schools have revealed their reasons for refusing one school’s request to go it alone and have accused the county council of showing a “clear lack of impartiality” over its support of the defederation request.

Last week, the governors of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton (BAWB) schools 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, which formed West Burton Defederation Group (WBDG) to seek defederation, then asked the governors to reconsider their decision, however BAWB again rejected the option.

The governors have now revealed their reasons behind their decision, which was taken despite a recommendation from North Yorkshire County Council that the defederation be allowed.

In a statement issued to parents and the local community, the board of governors said they were not convinced by the local authority that their recommendation was based on robust evidence or was “sufficiently underpinned by a consideration of the children’s education”.

The governors added: “The BAWB board therefore again on the basis of educational and financial evidence remains convinced that continuing in a federation as three schools represents the best option for pupils, the greatest opportunity for all three schools remaining open, and therefore the best option for the communities they serve.

“The BAWB board continues to be committed to working with the WBDG in order to continue with the federation which
brings stability to education in the mid dale and provides a good educational experience for local children.

“The board believes that by working together and building on BAWB and WBDG strengths, all three schools can have a much more secure future.”

The document states that the federation had benefitted pupils and staff at the three schools and that BAWB days, when all schools come together, had “clearly been enjoyable and had stretched children and provided them with larger peer cohorts”.

The BAWB board said it was concerned with the educational impact on the children of all three schools if defederation
was granted. 

It added that the WBDG were unable to show how the standard of education would be maintained post defederation,
and “did not persuade the BAWB board that safeguarding would be adequately addressed”.

They added: “West Burton School, if defederated, will be a very small stand-alone school and as such, the board believes that it will not be able to deliver the breadth or depth of education that the children currently enjoy through being in the federation.”

Supporters of West Burton’s defederation request revealed after last week’s decision that pledges amounting to just under £100,000 over three years had been made by people who were prepared to invest in keeping the school open.

However, the governors said they considered that the patronage scheme was “not robust” and was a “high risk financial strategy”.

They added that they believed that the federation as it stood provided a “secure funding base, and with the current in year position improving, together the three schools will have the greatest chance of staying open”.

The governors said they has challenged the local authority’s view that the West Burton community and parents had lost confidence in the BAWB board.

They added that the (local authority) director and LA officers had “only spoken with the defederation group, many of whom do not live in West Burton”.

They added: “It is not clear what ‘community’ refers to, but the BAWB board are aware of support from many longstanding residents of West Burton, at least two of whom have now written to him.

“The BAWB board are concerned that the LA have demonstrated a clear lack of impartiality by relying solely on evidence given to them by the group seeking defederation, and then repeating this in writing without any checks or clarity of definition.

“In view of this, the BAWB board are concerned about how such inaccuracies and partiality might underpin other advice they have given to the BAWB board.”

Richmondshire Today has asked the county council for a response but has not yet had a reply.

You can read the full BAWB statement here.


  1. ‘Many … Don’t live in West Burton’. So aren’t the parents who live in West Witton or Swinithwaite included?
    And if the LA had accepted the view of the BAWB Board of governors couldn’t that also be described as ”as a clear lack of impartiality’ as, from its own statement, BAWB has little solid evidence of support (eg two letters) from the parents and community served by West Burton school?

  2. It would be good to publish the letter from the LA to the governors with all the reasons for defederation . In short the LA suggest that the only way for the school to survive is outside a federation which the school has no voice in . None of the governors come from the local West Burton community and their running of the school has coincided with the school s demise . Since federation ( March 2016 ) it has gone from being an affluent happy school to one starved of its own funds . The school lost its autonomy at the point of federation and within three months the threat of . bussing of children up to Askrigg or Bainbridge began . The uncertainty thus created resulted in children leaving and many others not coming . The numbers in the surrounding schools are going up and the community are confident they can rebuild this school if they are allowed to have it back . The LA recognised this fact and if the status quo remains the school is unsustainable . The governors have lost the confidence of nearly all the parents and a lot of the wider community . It’s time for them to let go to end this impasse. Let’s hope they do !

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