The headteacher of the Wensleydale School says she is happy to hear suggestions of how access to school grounds can be improved following concerns over the installation of a new fence.
The fence, which runs around the school buildings and playing fields, was erected over the summer holidays to improve security and ensure the Leyburn school can be locked down in an emergency.
However, the gates are kept locked out of school hours too, meaning local children no-longer have access to the playing fields to play football or other sports, as they have traditionally done before the fence was erected.
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Local sports clubs still have access to the playing fields, with the fence only preventing unsupervised play by children.
The decision has caused concern among local parents and community leaders, with Leyburn Town Council among those organisations who have raised concern that an important community recreation area has been lost.
Upper Dales county councillor and a Wensleydale School governor, John Blackie, has also questioned the decision.
He said: “I was very disappointed to hear at the Wensleydale School board of governors in July that its extensive school grounds in Leyburn were not to be left available for students at the school or indeed for the local community to use for informal play over the summer holidays.
“I immediately challenged at the meeting the instruction given by Julia Polley, the headteacher, but it was suggested that it was an LEA directive so I decided to raise it at the county council meeting.”
Cllr Blackie said he was told at the meeting that it was not county council policy to prevent access to school grounds out of school hours.
After the meeting, the then North Yorkshire County Council director of children’s service Pete Dwyer wrote to the councillor.
He said: “The LA has given no blanket advice to schools re use of their grounds re summer recess.
“Our position is that it is up to the school depending on their own assessment of risk to their facilities; e.g. history of vandalism, assessment of potential for falls from height and fire risk; balanced against as you fully recognise the benefits for children of having a nearby facility to use in the holidays.”
Mrs Polley told Richmondshire Today she was aware of the disquiet about the impact of the fence, however she said the fence had been paid for by county council as part of measures to ensure the school was more secure and could be locked down in an emergency.
“Moving forward we would like to the site used more as a community hub, including for things like adult education classes and business conferences.
“Historically there were plans for a large multi-use sports hall that would have been open for community use. In the end this project did not get Sport England funding but and we would love to see this kind of scheme happen here at Wensleydale.
“In the meantime, I would be very happy to hear suggestions on how we can improve access to the facilities out of school hours, and would invite anyone with ideas to come forward.”
To contact Mrs Polley, email email@example.com.