On Wednesday morning (July 18) the ‘Shadow Board of Governors’ for West Burton CofE School will present a question at the full meeting of North Yorkshire County Council. This follows the decision by the Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton Federation of Schools (BAWB) governing board not to allow that at West Burton to defederate. Here is County Councillor John Blackie ’s full statement following that decision:
The BAWB Board of Governors are in flat denial if they consider they are acting in the best interests of the children who attend West Burton Primary School by refusing the request by their parents, the local community and a highly talented Shadow Board of Governors to de-federate the School, and return it to the stand-alone status under which it flourished for over 100 years. How they can say this beggars belief, as their plans are to bus children as young as 4 years of age 40 minutes a day, on top of the travelling to and from their homes to West Burton, often in the hostile weather we have here in the Upper Dales.
Their decision has now put the School on a fast track to closure as they have blatantly ignored the strongest evidence that the understandable parental objection to travelling combined with the uncertainty around the future of the school will see between 7 – 10 pupils currently on its roll being registered at Leyburn Primary School next term, and those intending to start at the school in September, up to 7 pupils, doing the same. This leaves West Burton School with just 13 pupils and very vulnerable to almost immediate closure. If instead it had been allowed to de-federate then there would have been 30 pupils there next term, more than enough to keep it successful and sustainable in the future.
The suspicion is that the BAWB Board of Governors always had a hidden agenda to close West Burton Primary School, so it appears they have got their own way – this is simply closure by stealth disguised as “due diligence”.
Sadly the Leadership and Management of the BAWB Federation has form on record for not listening to the communities they serve as it was only 3 years ago when bussing arrangements were implemented between Bainbridge and Askrigg Primary Schools, just under a mile and a 4 minutes journey away from each other, that saw 14 pupils from Bainbridge transfer to Hawes Primary School. If those pupils had remained in the BAWB Federation then there would have been more funding available to have all teaching undertaken at West Burton, and the unwelcome travelling avoided.
The Board of Governors does not feature one Governor from West Burton, so it is more than a pity it did not take seriously the issues raised by the Shadow Board for the School, many of whom live in the village, and know the wishes of the parents and the community intimately, or we would not be facing the crisis and collapse we are today.
The Local Educational Authority appears to be involved in a conspiracy as the announcement to refuse the request for de-federation was sent to all parents in the form of a press release issued by North Yorkshire County Council, despite it steadfastly maintaining the decision was the BAWB Federation’s to make, and make alone. This adds to the concerns and begs the question – was there always a shared agenda between them to close West Burton Primary School ??
The decision marks the end of the beginning, not the end of the end for a stand-alone West Burton School. There is to be a Public Question asked by a Shadow Board Governor at next Wednesday’s County Council meeting. And an appeal made to a higher education authority where the failure of the BAWB Board of Governors to recognise what is truly best for the children and the community in which they live amidst will be put to the test.