Village school faces closure
Parents and governors are to fight plans to close Nottinghamshire’s smallest primary school.
The county council is to consult staff, parents and governors on the proposal to close Besthorpe Primary School.
The school has a capacity of 42 but the roll has fallen from 28 pupils in 2003 to just 15.
The closure proposal will be discussed at a meeting at County Hall on Wednesday, following a report leading to the recommendation by the cabinet member for children and young people, Mrs Joyce Bosnjak.
She will ask the cabinet to approve the consultation.
In her report, Mrs Bosnjak says pupil numbers are set to fall to 11 in September, and there could be as few as five by 2010-11.
Parents received letters from the council on Wednesday informing them of the consultation on the proposal.
Mrs Bosnjak said school governors approached the council in December to initiate a formal consultation with staff, governors, and parents, to talk about possible closure, or amalgamation/federation of the school.
Council officers attended a meeting of the governors last month to outline the options and answer questions.
After meetings with the Small Schools Association, and considerations given to forming a federation with nearby schools, governors decided they wanted the school to remain open and to admit new children.
The chairman of the governors, Mrs Lucy Cook, said she was shocked at the recommendation to close the school.
“The Local Education Authority officers’ recommendations to the council cabinet, that the consultation should take place, and the letter sent to parents of children at the school regarding the consultation, was sent without the governors’ knowledge.
“This was a shock considering the governors’ overwhelming decision to support the developing future of our small school, to keep it part of our community.”
The final decision on the closure could be taken by an independent adjudicator.
Mrs Bosnjak said the case for closure must be based on the long-term viability of the school to offer good standards of educational and social experiences, despite low pupil numbers.
The head, Mrs Georgina Hunt, was appointed a year ago. The school has two other teachers, a full-time teaching assistant, one part-time clerical worker, and ancillary staff.
Mrs Maria Hewitt of Swinderby Road, Collingham, sends her nine-year-old triplets Millie, Jake and Ella Hewitt-Cook to the school. She said: “We are very happy with their education. Obviously we do not want it to close.”
The county councillor for Besthorpe, Mr Vincent Dobson, said he hoped parents would mount a strong campaign against the proposal.
A Newark and Sherwood district councillor for Besthorpe, Mr Kevin Rontree, said he could not understand why money had recently been spent refurbishing the school and building a new multi-use games area next to the school if it was to close.
He said a new floor was being fitted during half-term and if the school closed in the summer it would be a complete waste of money.
“It is a very old building but I would not be surprised to see the site developed.
“I am not suggesting this is politically motivated, but Newark and Sherwood has taken some hits on school closures.
“I would like to see county council officers attend meetings in the parish to justify this proposal.”
The county council’s director for children and young people’s services, Mr John Slater, said he was not aware of the work being carried out at the school, or its cost. He said the buildings still needed to be maintained.
He said: “What is expensive is educating ten children with a headteacher and several other staff. It would be better value to move them to a school with better numbers.”