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School asks Council to consult on closure

School Governors of St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School in Bishop Thornton have asked North Yorkshire County Council to begin formal consultation to close the school at the end of the current school year.

The County Council’s Executive took the decision this week to start the consultation in the light of concerns that with only 13 children on roll and with no new children enrolled to start in September, children at the school will not have access to the full range of experiences they need, particularly opportunities for working and playing with children of their own age.

  • St Joseph’s currently has only 13 pupils in a school designed to accommodate up to 60. The school’s budget requires between 20 and 23 pupils to break even
  • New funding arrangements introduced by central government have severely limited the ability of local authorities to provide additional financial support for small schools
  • The village of Bishop Thornton also maintains a Church of England Primary School

Moreover, with the school at less than one quarter of capacity, it faces a budget deficit before the end of the next academic year with little or no prospect of an improvement in the school’s financial position since funding is based on numbers of pupils.

The Diocese of Leeds is supporting parents on a one-to-one basis to find alternative Catholic schools in the locality, and to ensure that parental preferences are met. Places for all 13 children currently attending St Joseph’s would be found at other schools in the area, including Catholic primaries in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.

County Councillor Arthur Barker, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Schools said:

We understand and acknowledge the difficult decision the Governors of St Joseph’s school have made in asking the County Council to consult parents and the public on the future of the school.

We will carry out that consultation in a careful and thorough way, ensuring that any decisions are made on the basis of clear understanding of the situation of the school.

St Joseph’s was founded 130 years ago to serve a rural Parish with very different educational needs. Changing community needs from the catchment area has led to fluctuating numbers over several years.

An informal, month-long consultation by the governing body received 45 individual responses from the community, with almost half from former pupils or teachers, as well as a joint response from all the of the existing pupils. However, suggestions to address the impact costs of falling numbers all brought their own costs and challenges.

The Bishop and the Diocese have acknowledged the high regard for Bishop Thornton’s Catholic heritage and the affection felt for St Joseph’s by generations of families for whom it has provided quality Catholic education.

A final decision will be made by the Executive on August 16 2016 and closure would be effective from 31st August.

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