Council to publish notice for proposed closure of North Walney School

The publication of the notice will trigger a four-week ‘representation period’

Westmorland and Furness Council’s cabinet have approved the publication of a statutory notice for the proposed closure of North Walney Nursery and Primary School from 31 August 2024.

The publication of the notice will trigger a four-week ‘representation period’ to allow anyone with an interest in North Walney school to have their say on the proposed closure before a final decision is made on the school’s future.

Following concerns from the council about the decline in the number of pupils at the school and the resulting impact on the school’s financial position, a consultation was launched in November last year – with all views being considered by the cabinet as part of their decision to proceed with the publication of a statutory notice.

At the time of the consultation, the number of pupils at the school was just 27, with the school able to accommodate up to 161 children.

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 also means the school’s funding is making it difficult to achieve a balanced budget, and this is expected to become increasingly difficult in the coming years.

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.

>Cllr Sue Sanderson, the council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Education and Skills, said:

“The decision to close a school isn’t one the council would take lightly and we have considered the views of those who responded to the consultation last year before deciding to proceed with the publication of this statutory notice.

“Sadly, we’re concerned the school’s current financial position is unsustainable and it’s difficult to see how things will improve in the future if pupil numbers do not improve.

“As a former Head Teacher myself, I sympathise hugely with the staff, pupils, parents and local community surrounding North Walney School and we’ll support them throughout this process. Our decision is also not a reflection on the dedicated staff at North Walney, who have done everything they can under difficult circumstances and will continue to do so until a final decision is made on the school’s future.”

In accordance with the statutory process, the notice will be published on the Council’s website on 5 February 2024. Interested parties will then be able to view the notice and the full statutory proposal by visiting the council website and will have until 3 March 2024 to respond.

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