Fair funding deal fought for by Rishi Sunak secures dales schools' futures

The fairer funding deal for rural schools fought for by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has helped secure the future of three Dales schools.

Low pupil numbers and stretched budgets had placed a question mark over three federated schools in Wensleydale – Bainbridge and West Burton Church of England primary schools along with Askrigg Voluntary Controlled primary school.

Closure of one of the schools – West Burton – was being considered but the new national formula for funding schools will enable it to stay open.

The new funding formula for school was unveiled last year after a campaign by a number of rural MPs – including Mr Sunak – who said rural schools lost out unfairly to urban schools under the old formula.

Schools in North Yorkshire were receiving up to £400 per pupil less than pupils in nearby urban authorities like Bradford and Middlesbrough.

As part of his campaign, Mr Sunak launched a petition in the Richmond constituency and arranged for Charlotte Harper, executive headteacher at the BAWB Federation, and several pupils to travel to London in 2015 to help him present the petition to 10 Downing Street.

He said: “I am delighted that fairer funding has delivered this outcome in Wensleydale. It is precisely this sort of situation the campaign was designed to resolve.”

Options now being considered for the three schools will involve some changes which could involve reducing the number of class groups across the three schools. However, the three sites will remain open.

A statement issued by the education authority, North Yorkshire County Council, said: “It is very aware of the crucial role village schools play in the life of their communities and has done a great deal in recent years to broker and support school partnerships and federations so that where possible children should be educated locally in a school that provides high quality education.

“For this reason, community engagement on future options for these Wensleydale schools was postponed from last year to enable the impact of the new schools funding formula to be assessed.”

Derek Walpole, the BAWB federation chair of governors, said: “I’m delighted that the Government’s revised funding formula has enabled us to retain our three primary schools in Wensleydale”.

“If, as anticipated, changed arrangements are adopted which keep all three sites open, these will be implemented by the governing body with effect from September this year.”