A North Devon primary school with just 15 pupils is expected to close this summer because it is ‘neither educationally or financially sustainable’.
Founded in 1865, Chittlehampton Church of England Primary School serves children aged 3 to 11 but hasn’t had enough of them for several years.
Pupil numbers have consistently fallen and are now well short of the school’s capacity, a report to Devon County Council’s ruling cabinet reveals. Councillors are being asked to confirm its closure when they meet on Wednesday, June 8.
Just over 40 pupils were at the school five years ago. That number has dropped every year since and is predicted to fall to just 11 in the next school year.
Of the current 15 pupils, five are in Year 6 and will leave in July, while there has only been one first preference for admission to this September’s new reception class.
Despite acknowledging the school is rated as ‘good’ by Ofsted and how it works ‘in close partnership to provide the best possible education for all children,’ council officers say closure is in the ‘best educational interests of the children in the future as the school is neither educationally or financially sustainable’.
It continues: “Delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum at Chittlehampton C of E Primary School is very difficult with such a small and decreasing number of children.”
“A single class school is educationally challenging for children with such a wide age group being taught together. A single mixed age class in a small rural school amplifies the issue of teaching mixed ability groups. Social and emotional development would also be very challenging.”
Parents, staff and governors have all been consulted. A summary of the responses found there is ‘great sadness’ over the prospect of closure and the loss to the community, while some people felt more could have been done to promote the school.
There is, however, a recognition by some that such low numbers would have a negative impact on children’s education. They were also sad that not all families in Chittlehampton send their children to the school.
The head teacher has discussed the possible closure with pupils. One child is quoted as saying, ‘I’m worried I won’t make new friends,’ though another looked positively at moving to a larger school: “I can make lots of new friends.”
Schools a short distance away at Umberleigh and Filleigh have capacity to take children from Chittlehampton.
Filleigh Primary School is in the same federation of school and is reportedly proposing to move to four classes, thus providing additional spaces.
Seven staff are employed by Chittlehampton and a redundancy consultation process will need to be arranged. The county council says the governing body would aim to reduce redundancies by trying to find other jobs within the network of schools.
The school building is controlled by the vicar and churchwardens of the village. As trustees, they will determine its future use. The school playing field is owned by the parish council.
Chittlehampton C of E Primary School was contacted for a comment, but is currently closed for half term.
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