Yes, where proposals relate to the discontinuance (closure) of rural school, as identified by the Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order, a statement must be made setting out evidence that careful consideration has been given to a number of factors. These factors and that consideration are set out in the statement below.
Statement on the presumption against closure of a rural school.
This statement outlines the consideration the local authority has given to the following issues that must be addressed when making a proposal to close a rural school as defined by the Designation of Rural Primary Schools (England) Order.
Closure of Manley Village School was initially considered by Cheshire County Council in 2006 when it was determined that the schools should instead federate under a single headship and governing body. This arrangement has proved hard to manage creating significant challenges to sustaining quality whilst operating within balanced budgets. The governing body have instigated ad hoc measures of teaching joint year groups to address these issues but have now concluded that future budgetary challenges can only be met by moving to a full amalgamation of the two schools. The Local Authority agrees with this financial analysis. The current governing body has been successful in addressing quality issues raised by Ofsted inspection and do not consider there is a need to close both schools and create a new free school to address the remaining challenges. Manley Village School has already used its extended powers to host a pre-school on its site to help secure the future intake of pupils into reception across the two schools.
The two schools are 1.4 miles apart along a country road. The Governing Body will continue to promote sustainable travel arrangements between the two school sites to mitigate the likely impact of a split site school.
The two schools proposed for amalgamation are both very small, Manley Village School has a planned admission of 9 pupils into each year group, Alvanley Primary School has a planned admission of 10 pupils into each year group. The schools have been unable to independently staff for the full delivery of the curriculum for all year groups and have consequently had to establish grouping arrangements whereby particular year groups from both schools have been combined on a single site. The governing body believe that amalgamation will enable this to be accomplished in a planned and more comprehensive manner with a more consistent pupil to teacher ratio being maintained across the school. The more efficient use of resources will allow a greater proportion of available resource to be deployed in support of effective curriculum delivery.
The amalgamation is seen as a means of sustaining both school sites as resources that can potentially be enjoyed by the community. It is not envisaged that the proposal will lead to any loss of community amenity.
It is proposed that amalgamation of the schools will allow for a cohort of 15 pupils to be admitted to each year group; as this exceeds the current combined intake of pupils into the schools it is anticipated that this small reduction in local primary school capacity will have minimal impact on the pressure for places at neighbouring schools.