Updated: YORK’S education chiefs have begun talks to close one of the city’s secondary schools.
Only four years after a previous fight began to keep Burnholme Community College open, falling rolls have forced the council to consult on a phased closure of the school – as first revealed by thepress.co.uk yesterday.
The school, with 230 pupils, is York’s smallest secondary.
When the school was saved from closure in 2009 it had 360 pupils and a business plan was drawn up which should have seen 60, 70 and then 80 pupils starting in Year 7 year on year. But instead this year’s September intake stands at only 40 children.
If agreed, the phased closure would mean the school would shut in 2014. There would be no new intake in September and specific communication with the 40 parents who have made it their first choice for 2012 will take place.
The 66 children currently in Year 8 will transfer in groups to other secondary schools in September 2013 ready to begin their GCSE courses.
The 47 children currently in Year 7 will transfer in groups to other secondary schools in September 2014 so that they can begin their GCSE courses at their new school. This would mean the current Years 9, 10 and 11 – the CGSE years – would not be affected.
Simon Gumn, the school’s head teacher, said a fall in the birth rate 11 years ago coupled with an expansion in the number of student homes in their chief catchment area of Burnholme and Tang Hall meant that, despite a lot of hard work done over the last four years to attract more pupils, they have been fighting a losing battle.
Mr Gumn said: “We have done a good deal of work, but what’s beaten us is the numbers of pupils available and that’s why, when the governors met to talk about the school’s future, they realised that it would not be possible to provide the education we would like with the numbers we have.
"They also recognise that it’s not just about the young people at Burnholme, but the young people of York as a whole and if we went to the local authority to ask for further funds we would be taking money away from other schools.”
Kim Daniells, chairman of governors, said: “Three or four years ago the problem was we weren’t attracting enough children, but now there aren’t enough children to attract.
“It is heartbreaking to be where we are at. My son came to Burnholme, this is our community school – it’s deeply sad and I feel personally sad for all the people who are affected, but we are absolutely committed to maintaining the excellent standards of teaching at the school throughout the process and to making any transition as smooth as possible.”
As schools are paid on a per pupil basis the fact that Burnholme is such a small school means that in September £9,500 would be spent on every child at Burnholme per year compared with between £4,200 and £5,500 at other city secondaries and keeping the school open would mean the other eight secondary schools subsidising Burnholme to the tune of about £60,000 each.
Council chiefs have said the decision to start a consultation on closure was not to do with budget cuts.
Council leader, James Alexander, said: “You never want to close a school, especially one that has had good grades and a good Ofsted like Burnholme, but we have to plan for the future and a school year group of 40 children is not going to allow the school to offer a wide curriculum.”
Coun Janet Looker, cabinet member for education, children and young people’s services, said: “Burnholme School has had a long and good track record as the local secondary school serving its community well – not just as a school much appreciated by local children and their parents but also providing much needed community facilities to the area.
“But changes in population mean that fewer and fewer families are choosing Burnholme as their first choice of school and once a school dips below a certain number it becomes increasingly difficult to give the pupils the range of curriculum and sporting opportunities that the children deserve.
"I know these are difficult times for families, but I know we will work hard to support children and their families over the transition.”
Pupils, parents and staff have been told of the start of the consulation yesterday and there will be a special parents’ meeting at the school tomorrow night to talk through the consultation.
A formal consultation with the wider community will begin in the next few days when people will be able to have their say on the plan.