Closure notice to be published for Harrogate's Woodfield Community Primary School

A closure notice for Harrogate's Woodfield Community Primary School is to be published after officials said they have "exhausted all options" to try keep it open.

By Jacob Webster
Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 4:31 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th July 2022, 4:33 pm
The school could shut on 31 December if the closure proposals go through.
The school could shut on 31 December if the closure proposals go through.

Parents, residents and councillors have all objected to the closure plans for the school which could shut on 31 December after it failed to find an academy sponsor last year.

This came after Woodfield was judged "inadequate" and placed into special measures by Ofsted before the nearby Grove Road Primary School pulled out of a planned merger.

North Yorkshire County Council's executive today agreed to publish a closure notice in September despite objections that the move would be a "huge mistake" and "very short sighted".

Stuart Carlton, corporate director of children and young people’s service at the council, told a meeting that he understood the concerns, but added there are "no other options" for the school which has fallen into financial difficulties after a big drop in pupil numbers.

He said: "We have tried our hardest working with the school's governing body and other schools to find a solution, but this is not available to us any more.

"I understand some parents don't want us to do this... but the sad fact is many other parents in the area have chosen to educate their children elsewhere other than this school.

"We have consulted widely and are now at a place where there are no other options."

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There were just 26 pupils remaining at the school in May and this is expected to fall to single figures after almost all parents requested to move their children elsewhere.

It has been proposed that the current catchment area is expanded to include Bilton Grange Primary School and Grove Road Primary School, although parents have a right to express a preference for any school.

Today's meeting heard that 12 pupils have already secured their first choice, while five have got their second and two their third, and three cases are pending.

Councillor Monika Slater, who represents the Bilton Grange and New Park division, said she believed pupils at Woodfield should have been given greater priority for places as she also urged the council to learn lessons for the future.

She said: "Part of the issue comes down to the fact neighbouring schools have been allowed to become oversubscribed.

"And I was disappointed to hear that children were going to be treated the same as any other child in the area who wished to move given their situation is somewhat different when we are potentially looking to close the school.

"I really feel these children should have been given a higher preference on their choices."

The closure proposals come as the government has outlined plans for all schools to join academies by 2030.

Academy-run schools are overseen by charitable bodies called trusts which are seen as a way of giving teachers greater control over areas such as pupil admissions.

However, there are concerns that many more Harrogate district schools with falling pupil numbers could follow in the footsteps of Woodfield which will have its fate decided by the council's executive on 18 October.

Before then, a four week consultation will be held when the statutory closure notice is published on 8 September.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter