A group of parents has vowed to fight plans to close Woodfield Community Primary School in Bilton.
Woodfield has been unable to find an academy willing to take it on since it was rated inadequate by Ofsted in January last year.
A joint statement signed by the headteachers and chairs of governors at both schools hailed the move as “an exciting opportunity to enhance our educational offer”.
But several parents were shocked and angered by the news when they met the Stray Ferret yesterday.
They said Woodfield had made tremendous progress since it was rated inadequate — a view supported by an Ofsted monitoring visit in June, which said ‘leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures’.
Kerry Bartle, who has had six children at the school over 23 years, said the proposed merger was a “devastating blow” to families that had stuck with the school and worked hard to improve it when others had left.
The number of pupils has roughly halved to 56 in recent years due to the poor Ofsted and a rapid turnover of headteachers. But Ms Bartle said it had improved significantly in the last 18 months, despite covid, and closure was being rushed into disturbingly quickly. She added:
“No child should be worried like ours are now as to what is going to happen to them next.
“My son is in year 4 and has mobility issues. He would struggle at the Grove site
“Woodfield is such an amazing community. We can’t fault the school as it is today.”
‘They will build on it’
Mike Fryer, a grandparent, thinks the council is using merger as a stepping stone towards closing the large Woodfield site and using it for housing.
“Within two years they will close it down and build on it. This has been on the cards since the start. They have made the school unviable, and since when should schools be all about money?”
There are also fears the Woodfield site will provide early years education and a nursery for Grove Road, forcing some families with more than one child to have to drop off and collect from both schools.
Louise Newport said she would look for another school altogether if this happened. She said:
“My son is autistic and his summer holiday will be horrendous if he has to move. Woodfield school has done so much for the children.
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Naomi Tomlinson, who has two children at Woodfield, also said she would look for another school, adding:
“Ask any kids and they will say it is a fantastic school. As far as we were aware it was doing well so this is a real shock.”
The parents also questioned whether such swift action would be taken to close a school in a better-off part of Harrogate.
The council’s response
The Stray Ferret put a series of questions to North Yorkshire County Council, including whether it could reassure parents that no children would have to move from either site.
We received the following response from Amanda Newbold, assistant director for education and skills, said:
“Woodfield Primary School became eligible for intervention by the Regional Schools Commissioner (RSC) having been judged inadequate by Ofsted at inspection in January 2020. Subsequently the school was issued with a Directive Academy Order but the RSC was unable to secure an academy trust to sponsor the school due to viability concerns.
“We have supported the school through the provision of successful temporary leadership since the inspection. The latest Ofsted monitoring report of Woodfield in July states that “leaders and managers are taking effective action towards the removal of special measures” and it is important to recognise the efforts of all those who have been involved in this improvement journey.
“However, the current arrangements can only be temporary and the absence of an academy sponsor means the school faces an uncertain future. Therefore, work began earlier this year to assess how education provision within the Woodfield community could be preserved.
“The current proposals have been developed by members of the school governing bodies and our officers. The two governing bodies carefully considered the proposals before half term, and both agreed to ask us to start a consultation.
“Families, staff, and other members of the local community will have opportunities to consider the detail of the proposals during the consultation period.
“The proposed amalgamation would be achieved through the technical closure of Woodfield School, and the enlargement of Grove Road CP School through future use of the Woodfield site.
“This would provide an exciting opportunity to enhance the facilities of Grove Road School, organising sustainable education across both sites aiming for the best possible provision for all pupils, and importantly ensuring that the Woodfield site continues to be used for education of the wider community.
“The governing bodies and our officers believe that these proposals would be the best way of achieving their joint aims of improving local education provision at this time.”