Cabinet agrees closure of North Walney School after fall in pupil numbers

Westmorland and Furness Council’s cabinet have approved the proposed closure of North Walney Nursery and Primary School.

The school will now officially close from 31 August 2024, subject to call-in.

Last month, the council published a statutory notice which triggered a four-week ‘representation period’ to allow anyone with an interest in North Walney school to have a final say on the proposed closure before this final decision was made on the school’s future.

That representation period has now ended and after considering all of the views raised, the council’s cabinet have agreed to proceed with the closure.

The council raised concerns last year about the decline in the number of pupils at the school and the resulting impact on the school’s financial position.

There has been a continuous drop in numbers across all year groups over recent years. In 2019/20 the number of pupils at the school was 84, by 2021/22 this number had fallen to 67 with a further reduction to 22 by 2022/23.

In line with national trends, the number of births in the North Walney catchment area has also reduced in recent years, as it has across Walney Island. Because fewer children are being born, the chances of significant growth in pupil numbers for North Walney School are low.

There’s also a surplus of school places across the surrounding area, with five other schools within a two-mile radius of North Walney Primary School, four of which are located on Walney Island.

The low number of pupils attending the school had made it difficult for it to achieve a balanced budget resulting in an increasing budget deficit.

School budgets are directly linked to the number of children at a school and funding allocations are based on a nationally agreed formula. This means no additional financial support can be provided to the school by the local authority.

Milorad Vasic, the council’s Director for Children’s Services, said: “I sympathise hugely with the staff, pupils, parents and the local community surrounding North Walney School and we’ll support them throughout this process. Whilst we’re disappointed to see any school close, this is the right decision for pupils who can now move on to one of the other local schools with secure futures – all of which are rated “Good” by Ofsted.

“We have considered the views of those who responded to the consultation last year and the statutory notice last month before agreeing to close the school in August 2024.

“I’d like to place on record my thanks and gratitude to the school’s leadership and staff for their professionalism and understanding during this difficult time.”

North Walney Primary School

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