North Yorkshire County Council wants village school to be success, parents told

West Burton Primary School.

North Yorkshire County Council wants West Burton Church of England Primary School to be success – whether it remains in a federation with two other schools or not, parents were told last night.

Around 30 villagers attended a public meeting at West Burton village hall to hear about the process for leaving the BAWB School Federation, which is made up of Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton schools.

Parents of children attending the Bishopdale school voted to leave the federation last month.

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The decision was taken following unhappiness about a planned new structure which would see the youngest children from West Burton bussed to Bainbridge for lessons.

It is felt that the school would lose further pupils if this arrangement was put in place, and would be at risk of closure.

The meeting was chaired by Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie, with Stuart Boothman, lead governance advisor for North Yorkshire County Council attending to explaining the process for leaving the federation and taking back control of the school, and answers questions from parents and others.

There was disappointment at the meeting that nobody from the diocese had attended, despite being invited.

Mr Boothman explained that BAWB would have the final say on whether West Burton could de-federate, with NYCC not having an input into the decision other than to provide information to the governors.

BAWB would meet on June 19 to look at due-diligence ahead of another meeting on July 11 when the decision would be made.

The meeting was told that the decision must be based on evidence.

“The critical factor in the decision is could the school be financially viable if it was to leave the federation,” Mr Boothman told the meeting, adding that governors would also assess whether the smaller federation could be viable if West Burton was to leave.

Parents were told that if BAWB decided not to allow their school to de-federate they could appeal to the Secretary of State.

NYCC would support the governors by providing information, including financial models for the schools.

Mr Boothman told the meeting that if the decision was to allow the split, West Burton parents and supports of the school would need to form a shadow board of governors that would work towards the school being independent from January 1 next year.

He said technically the shadow board could not be formed until after July 11, however the community could make a start on forming what he called a pre-shadow board immediately.

The shadow board would initially be made up of just four or five people – two co-opted and two foundation governors approved by the diocese, and then a local authority nominated governor

After the school became independent the headteacher, two parent governors and a staff governor could join.

Reverend Lynn Purvis-Lee, from the Penhill Benefice, told the meeting that work had already started on finding two people who could be put forward to the diocese for approval.

Work had already taken place to identify other governors who could be co-opted to the shadow board, parents were told.

Mr Boothman said a considerable amount of work would need to be done ahead of January 1, if BAWB approved the de-federation, with the most important task being the planning of a budget.

Other jobs included appointing staff, planning the curriculum, setting the vision, values and ethos statement, as well as arranging contacts for services such as HR, IT, cleaning and caretaking, and school meals.

The meeting was told the shadow board would get support from North Yorkshire County Council.

Cllr Blackie said that in his experience the county council education department was very helpfull and would provide excellent help to the shadow board.

“Whoever comes forward will be prepared for hard work but you will not be doing it in isolation.” he added.

Mr Boothman stressed that the county council wanted the school to succeed regardless of the the decision taken by BAWB.

He added: “It’s absolutely in our interests for the school to be a success.

“The decision is not in our control but if the decision is for West Burton to operate as a stand alone school its in the best interests, including those of the children, for the school to be successful.”

Parent Clare Cooper commented that should the de-federation take place, it should be an amicable process with collaboration between the three schools continuing to take place in the future after the separation, as it had before West Burton joined the federation.