THE out-going head teacher at a threatened York primary school has blamed the expansion of the University of York for falling pupil numbers.

Carole Torode, is taking early retirment as head teacher of Derwent School after more than two decades as a head teacher in Tang Hall, where she grew up.

Mrs Torode, 59, has been head at Derwent Infants for 22 years and took over as head of the juniors when the two federated in 2006 and says she will very much miss the school.

She said it was her decision to retire which sparked the current consultation process to unite her school with nearby Osbaldwick and said the ever-growing University of York had meant pupil numbers had dropped from 300 when she started at Derwent to 100 today.

She said: “Family homes are being bought up by landlords to let to students at the University of York. While I have been here the numbers have just dropped and dropped and dropped; there has been a steady decline in pupil numbers.

“It is a tragedy because this is a fantastic school with a fantastic buildings and fantastic facilities and the pupils are so brilliant - I am so proud of them.”

She said she was sad to follow the story of Burnholme Community College, the secondary where many Derwent pupils would go and which is now due to close in 2014.

She said: “There have been fundamental changes in the years I have been teaching, but I'm now seeing children that I taught years ago who have now become parents bringing their children here and even grandparents and that’s when you know it’s time to go.”

Mrs Torode, who lives in Haxby and also previously taught at her own former school, Tang Hall Primary, said she plans to spend some of her retirement at her second home in France “under a palm tree with a gin and tonic”.

A University of York spokesman said: “City of York Council is best placed to explain why Derwent Primary School is being taken over by Osbaldwick Primary School.

“However, it seems unlikely that this decision is related to the number of students living in the area. The primary schools closest to the University campus - such as Badger Hill and Lord Deramore’s – are all thriving, and include many children of staff and students at the university.”

From January to September, Osbaldwick’s current head, Lesley Barringer, will be the executive head for both schools. After the consultation, decisions will be taken in the spring for changes to be in place by next September.