School with just two pupils could shut its gates for good next summer

The smallest primary school in Lancashire could be closed next year, after councillors voted to begin a consultation over its future.

Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 5:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 4th December 2018, 5:25 pm
Bleasdale Church of England Primary is the smallest school in Lancashire

Bleasdale Church of England Primary – nestled in the Forest of Bowland, to the east of Garstang – currently teaches just two pupils. It has seen the classroom count fall from a recent high of 16 in the last five years.

One of the two children attending the school is due to leave next summer – and none joined in the current academic year.

The school’s governing body requested the consultation process after concluding that it will not be financially viable in future.

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Pupil numbers in neighbouring schools have also dropped, but not as fast as the corridors have emptied at Bleasdale. That comes in spite of the tiny primary being rated as “good” by OFSTED.

However, a report presented to Lancashire County Council’s cabinet revealed that it was unlikely to be able to retain that rating if the number of children on its roll remained in single figures.

The school’s website encourages parents to “travel the extra mile” to send their children to Bleasdale – and boasts that two pupils used to make the 40-mile round trip from Penwortham each day. But now, even pupils within its catchment area are looking elsewhere.

There are two alternative primary schools in the vicinity – one of which is also under the Church of England umbrella. The nearest is just under 3 miles away.

According to Wyre Council’s local plan, just 17 new houses are planned for the area surrounding the school over the next five years. The alternative schools are also operating at just over half of their combined capacity.

The consultation process will begin in the new year, with several stages needing to be completed before a final decision is made in July 2019. Depending on the outcome, the school gates could close for the final time that month.

Speaking after the meeting, Stephen Whittaker, Director of Blackburn Diocesan Board of Education, said: “The governors made a formal request to the local authority, in consultation with the diocese, to consult on closure of the school.

“This difficult decision was reached because the school is not financially sustainable with only two children on roll.

“The consultation will ascertain whether there is any opposition by allowing interested parties to respond to the local authority.”

The school itself was also contacted for comment.