Merger of three primary schools near Shrewsbury is approved
Three rural primary schools near Shrewsbury will join forces after senior councillors approved the plans.
The schools – Hope CE Primary School, Worthen CE Primary School and St Mary's CE Primary School in Westbury, will be amalgamated from the forthcoming academic year.
Members of Shropshire Council's cabinet agreed to proceed with restructuring the closure plans at a meeting at Shirehall yesterday.
They agreed to proceed to the publication of closure proposals for both Hope and Westbury schools, with pupils transferring to Worthen.
They have set a target date for the merger of September 1, 2017.
The site at Worthen will be expanded to cope with the increase in pupil numbers. The three schools have collectively lost 29 pupils between January and 2016 and the annual school census in October, 2016 down from 114 to 85.
A report to the authority said the fall in pupil numbers was in part due to the cohort sizes in the individual schools being so small, with parents citing this as their main reason for removing children.
The plans were supported by cabinet, but one local councillor said in a statement that although she understood the reasons for the closures, she urged the authority to ensure the sustainability of rural communities was made a priority.
Heather Kidd, councillor for Chirbury and Worthen, said: "It is with great sadness that I realise there is no alternative to Hope School's closure.
"The lack of affordable family housing in our very rural areas is driving families away from their roots – even when they work locally or have child care locally.
"The numbers of children attending Hope School are no longer financially viable.
"The real issue now is the sustainability of Hope and Bentlawnt. This closure is the final straw for the shop and Post Office which will now close on January 4 as the daily parent trade has now ceased.
"The Post Office is trying to find alternative ways to deliver their services in this remote area which has some of the highest snowfall in Shropshire even when the rest of us have none.
"The shop was the lifeline for many when cut off.
"I would make a plea that rural communities' sustainability must now be made a priority for the council if we are to keep the rest of our village schools viable, balance the generations in the settlements, provide housing for key workers – including carers – and this will then reduce travel costs for many service areas in Shropshire Council.
"Our rural areas face a bleak future if we do not heed this."
Concerns about the plans have been raised regarding increased traffic to the school once the amalgamation goes ahead but children from the other two schools are currently bussed in and it is anticipated that this will continue.