NYCC ‘powerless’ to intervene on future of Dales school

West Burton Primary School.

North Yorkshire County Council says it is powerless to save one of its own village schools after its future became threatened having been guided by the authority to amalgamate with two others.

Campaigners told a full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council they believed West Burton Church of England Primary School, near Leyburn, was under imminent threat of closure.

West Burton resident Sue Ryding told the meeting almost immediately after the council had led the village school to federate with others in Bainbridge and Askrigg in 2016, “disadvantages” became apparent.

She said as the federation of schools struggled financially, West Burton’s distance from the other two schools and the cost of transporting pupils from site to site had made it vulnerable.

Mrs Ryding told the meeting at County Hall: “The resulting uncertainty over the last 18 months has led to falling pupil numbers, and has deterred prospective parents, adding to the fears that the school will become unviable.”

She questioned whether the council had advised governors about the risks to the Yorkshire Dales school and whether it would intervene to follow its policy of avoiding further closures of small, rural schools.

The authority’s education boss, Councillor Patrick Mulligan, said the decision of the future of West Burton school could only be made by the governing body of all three schools.

He said local authorities only had powers to intervene in exceptional circumstances, which had not been met, but the council would continue to offer advice.

He agreed to hold a meeting in the near future with campaigners and the federation’s governors to consider the campaigners’ proposal that West Burton school stays within the federation, the ending of moving pupils’ between sites and a three-year moratorium over its closure.

After the meeting, Upper Dales councillor John Blackie said there would be nothing to stop the council from making a recommendation to the federation’s governors.