Proposed closure of Woodfield Primary School a 'disgrace', says Harrogate Lib Dems

Harrogate's Liberal Democrats have expressed anger over a decision to push ahead with the proposed closure of Woodfield Community Primary School.

By Jacob Webster
Monday, 25th July 2022, 3:12 pm
Updated Monday, 25th July 2022, 3:15 pm
Lib Dem leader Pat Marsh said pupils are being 'let down so badly'.
Lib Dem leader Pat Marsh said pupils are being 'let down so badly'.

Councillor Pat Marsh, leader of the opposition party, described the move as a "disgrace" and said pupils are being "let down so badly" after North Yorkshire County Council's executive last week agreed to publish a closure notice.

"We need more schools in Harrogate, not less," councillor Marsh said.

"With thousands of houses still to be built in Kingsley, where will all these young people go for their schooling?"

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Education bosses at the county council said they have “exhausted all options” to try keep the school open after it was rated inadequate in an Ofsted inspection in January 2020.

Woodfield then failed to find an academy sponsor before merger talks with the nearby Grove Road Community Primary School also fell through.

A closure date of 31 December is now planned for the school after the county council's executive last week agreed to publish statutory closure proposals in September.

Before last week's decision, Harrogate Borough Council's Lib Dems had led calls for the closure plans to be scrapped.

And councillor Marsh said those pleas have now been "ignored" by the Conservative-run county council which she claimed will force pupils into "difficult circumstances with long walks to schools and in one case so far, siblings potentially being sent to different schools".

After a big drop in pupil numbers, there were just 26 children remaining at Woodfield in May and most have now been offered a place at another school.

It has been a similar story at other struggling schools across the Harrogate district, including Baldersby St James Church of England Primary School near Thirsk which is set to close next month.

A closure consultation has also recently been announced for Fountains Earth CE Primary School in Lofthouse, while Kell Bank Church of England Primary School in Masham closed last year when its 200-year history came to an end.

The next steps for Woodfield will see a four-week consultation held when the closure notice is published on 8 September.

A final decision on the proposal will then be made by the county council’s executive on 18 October.

Speaking at last week's meeting, Stuart Carlton, corporate director of children and young people’s service at the county council, said it was “regrettable” that the closure had been proposed but he added there were "no other options" available.

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."

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter