Three Dales primary schools to survive following funding change

West Burton Primary School.

Three Yorkshire Dales primary schools are set to remain open because of changes to the way rural schools are funded.

A community engagement process has been launched to look at best options for securing education in Wensleydale and Bishopdale for current and future pupils.

Bainbridge and West Burton Church of England primary schools along with Askrigg Voluntary Controlled primary school are federated under a single governing body.

They have been working with support from North Yorkshire County Council and the Diocese of Leeds to address the challenges they face around lower pupil numbers and finances.

This has resulted in a number of options for change which it is hoped will secure sustainable, quality education – enabling children to access the full range of experiences they need.

The local community will be given the chance to consider these options, all of which will enable all three school sites to remain open.

The county council said it had long campaigned with national Government for fairer funding for smaller rural schools.

It added in a statement issued today: “It is very aware of the crucial role village schools play in the life of their communities and has done a great deal in recent years to broker and support school partnerships and federations so that where possible children should be educated locally in a school that provides high quality education.

“For this reason, community engagement on future options for these Wensleydale schools was postponed from last year to enable the impact of the new schools funding formula to be assessed.”

Education chiefs say range of options have been scrutinised under this new formula which would enable all three school sites to remain open.

However, they stress that these options involve significant operational change and potentially reduce the number of class groups across the three sites to address school deficits.

Derek Walpole, the federation chair of governors, said: “I’m delighted that the Government’s revised funding formula has enabled us to retain our three primary schools in Wensleydale”.

If, as anticipated, changed arrangements are adopted which keep all three sites open, these will be implemented by the governing body with effect from September this year.

“The county council is committed to keeping village schools thriving whenever possible,” said County Councillor Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools.

“We fully recognise the importance of children accessing quality education in their local schools and we are very pleased that we have been able to support the governing board to present a range of options which keep all three sites open.”

County Cllr John Blackie, local member for the Upper Dales, said: “I am delighted all three schools will be remaining open as they are at the very heart of the deeply rural communities they serve, although there will have to be compromise to deliver this very welcome outcome.

“But the governors will need to take on board the results of the forthcoming consultation to ensure the option taken forward will maximise the pupil numbers at each school, both now and in the future.

“All told this is an excellent result for the Upper Dales.”

There will be local drop-in sessions on 26 February and the community engagement period will close on 9 March 2018.