Ribble Valley small schools are under threat

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PROPOSALS to change the way small schools are funded could put some of the Ribble Valley’s rural schools under threat, a national teaching union has warned.

Primary schools with 100 pupils or fewer – of which there are 10 in the Ribble Valley – could be affected by Government proposals to simplify funding arrangements for schools.

Lancashire County Council is currently in consultation with the Government and is working with local headteachers to develop solutions to continue to support the community’s smaller schools.

“Throughout Lancashire, there are about 100 primary schools with fewer than 100 pupils on their roll, mostly based in small rural communities,” explained Lancashire County Councillor Susie Charles, the Cabinet Member for Children and Schools.

“The county council’s funding arrangements for schools include a number of elements that reflect the needs of the pupils in small schools, as well as the costs of providing education in these specific settings.

“The Government is currently consulting on proposals that would simplify the funding arrangements for schools. These proposals would remove the council’s ability to use a number of factors to determine the level of funding, including those that specifically relate to the needs of small schools.

“The county council is still evaluating the potential impact of the proposals. We are working with headteachers from small schools to make appropriate representations to Government and to develop solutions that will continue to support viable and vibrant provision in rural communities.

“The county council recognises the valuable contribution schools in rural areas make to their communities and we will do everything we can to help them to continue.”

The proposals have prompted warnings from Ken Cridland, secretary of Lancashire National Union of Teachers, NUT, that small schools, such as those in the Ribble Valley, will not manage on the new funding arrangement.

“All schools have fixed costs whether they are big or small. Bringing in this financial obligation will mean small schools won’t be able to survive and yet the Government is telling parents that they are in favour of them.

“If they are in favour of small schools they are making it very difficult by introducing this.”

Headteachers at the Ribble Valley schools that could see their finances affected by the proposals are currently in consultation with Lancashire County Council.

Mrs Maureen Stansfield, headteacher at Bolton-by-Bowland CE Primary School, said: “Bolton-by-Bowland and Grindleton primary schools are proud to be part of the local community and we will continue to work with the local authority to provide the best education for our children in our small local schools.”

Mrs Lisa Titchiner, headteacher at Sabden Primary School, said: “We are used to managing a small budget by being creative and resourceful. We still do have places available in most years and welcome families who recognise the advantage of a smaller school.”

Elizabeth Stevens, headteacher at St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Hurst Green, said: “As well as being a Catholic school, we are very much a village school at the heart of this rural community.

“Around half of our staff are employed from the village and as well as a school, we also offer a thriving pre-school.

“Our exceptionally high academic standards and our outstanding Ofsted grading are testament to the value of our small school.”

Primary schools in the Ribble Valley with fewer than 100 pupils include:

Bolton-by-Bowland CE Voluntary Aided Primary School.

Brabin’s Endowed School, Chipping.

Brennand’s Endowed Primary School, Slaidburn.

Grindleton CE Voluntary Aided Primary School.

Sabden Primary School.

St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Hurst Green.

St Mary’s RC Primary School, Chipping.

St Mary’s RC Primary School, Sabden.

St Wilfrid’s CE Voluntary Aided Primary School, Ribchester.

Thorneyholme RC Primary School, Dunsop Bridge.