Concerns raised about leadership of primary schools in Nidderdale ahead of closure later this month

A Nidderdale councillor has raised concerns about the leadership of two primary schools in the same federation as Fountains Earth in Lofthouse — which is set to officially close for good at the end of this month.
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Fountains Earth is part of Upper Nidderdale Federation alongside St Cuthbert’s Church of England Primary School in Pateley Bridge and Glasshouses Community Primary School.

Last year, the governing board at Fountains Earth approached North Yorkshire Council to request a consultation on a proposal to close the school saying it had “exhausted all options” following dwindling pupil numbers.

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The council’s executive approved the closure in January following a public consultation.

Fountain's Earth Church of England Primary School in Lofthouse is set to close for good at the end of this monthFountain's Earth Church of England Primary School in Lofthouse is set to close for good at the end of this month
Fountain's Earth Church of England Primary School in Lofthouse is set to close for good at the end of this month

However, parents and former staff launched a petition calling for an investigation into the leadership of the federation which has been signed by 1,103 people.

The petition organiser said the investigation should cover academic performance, financial performance and communication with parents.

Former Fountains Earth parent Fiona Ewbank addressed Skipton and Ripon councillors at a meeting last week and said parents withdrew their children from the school after “losing trust” in the school’s leaders.

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Stephen Ramsden from Upper Nidderdale Parish Council said losing the school was an “awful blow” to the community and that the same “poor management persists” at St Cuthbert’s.

Although there is no suggestion from the Conservative-run council that the schools in Pateley Bridge or Glasshouses are in danger of following the same fate as Fountains Earth, Councillor Andrew Murday (Liberal Democrat – Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale) said it was a “problem” that the federation runs the two other schools.

He argued there isn’t a mechanism for the council to look into the governance of the federation.

Councillor Murday added: “My anxiety is the same problems that arose at Fountains Earth will recur in the other two primary schools.”

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Councillor Barbara Brodigan (Liberal Democrat – Ripon Ure Bank and Spa) warned that a “pattern will be repeated” unless changes are made.

She said: “Parents do vote with their feet.

"Schools with no pupils get no funding and it’s a downward spiral all the time.

"In some respects, the council is powerless to determine parents’ choices but I share your concerns that the same may happen again.”

Skipton and Ripon MP Julian Smith was questioned by Councillor Murday about the federation earlier in the meeting and said he “hadn’t heard any issues” regarding its other schools but said he would be happy to meet concerned parties.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Upper Nidderdale Federation to respond to Councillor Murday’s comments on two occasions but we did not receive a reply.

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