West Burton School parents looking to leave federation with Bainbridge and Askrigg schools

West Burton Primary School.

Leaving the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of schools (BAWB) may be the only way of saving West Burton C of E School, parents have said.

They told Burton cum Walden Annual Parish Meeting that the latest bussing option put forward by the governors of BAWB would lead to the closure of West Burton School.

In its newsletter on April 20 the BAWB Federation stated that “Option 3A” provided the best opportunities for all its pupils and would get the federation back on track financially.

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It asked parents to help successfully implement the changes which would, it said, benefit their children.

According to a letter sent to parents on April 19 by BAWB, that option would involve bussing all the Key Stage 1 and Foundation Stage children (aged four to seven) from West Burton to Bainbridge for lessons each day. This would  leave only  17 children at West Burton school.

At the meeting in West Burton village hall on May 1, parents said that after two years at Bainbridge school their children would want to remain with their friends and so not return to West Burton.

West Witton parish councillor Graham Bottley said: “If we don’t do anything the school will be closed. I don’t want to stand by and let that happen. If it is de-federated and then closes the school can say it had control of its own destiny. It needs a period of stability to allow the school to thrive.”

“We have been asking for years to have a West Burton School parent on the governing board of BAWB. Because we have no representation we don’t know what they are talking about. We only get the final decision.”

He said that in the past two years there had been various proposals for bussing children between the three schools which had created uncertainty and instability. Some parents had, therefore, chosen to send their children elsewhere and so the numbers at West Burton School had decreased.

Like other West Witton parents, he was against an option which would lead to the youngest children travelling by bus to West Burton and then on another to Bainbridge each day.

He mentioned the proposed new housing development at West Witton where over 60 per cent of the applicants for the affordable homes were young families. If there wasn’t a good school nearby they were likely to choose to live elsewhere and this would affect the dynamics of the village as the community needed a range of age groups, he said.

North Yorkshire County councillor John Blackie reported that at a recent meeting at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel  21 parents of children at West Burton School had unanimously agreed that if Option 3A was approved the school should become independent again.

Cllr Blackie added: “My own view is that if 3A is adopted there won’t be a West Burton school by September next year.”

Cllr Blackie said at the meeting that they should await the outcome of the consultation and listen to what the governors said on May 10 before taking any further action towards independence.

Cllr Bottley said he believed an independent West Burton school would be viable and could be de-federated by September this year. “It is quite a short process,” he said. He explained that if the BAWB governors rejected a proposal for de-federation the parents could then apply to the Department of Education.

Fran Cartwright said the parents would not decide on what action to take until after the BAWB governors reach a decision on Option 3A on May 10.

She added: “If we do de-federate we will get control of our own budget.”  The consultation period on Option 3A ends on May 3.

Cllr Bottley said that according to their provisional budget an independent West Burton school would make a small loss for a few years.

“At the moment the federation is seeing very big losses which the county council is supporting,” he added.

Juliet Madden, who leads collective worship at West Burton School each week, reminded the meeting that when West Burton School joined BAWB it had £70,000 in the bank, but that had now all gone.

She praised the teaching staff at West Burton who had maintained an excellent atmosphere even when there were so many  uncertainties.

“We have two excellent teachers who do not know if they will be teaching in September,” she said.

Burton cum Walden parish councillor Rowland Dent told the parents: “You have had the experience of being in the federation and clearly you don’t like it. The school has had a good report in the past and good finances so there’s no reason why it can’t return to that – rather than this fickle system where you are being treated like children.”

Parents said that they would like to see the  collaboration between Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton schools continue and believed that the future of Bainbridge and Askrigg schools would not be undermined if West Burton school left the federation.