Governors speak out on 'difficult decision' to propose closing tiny village school

Governors at a tiny south Shropshire school earmarked for closure say they have considered "all possible options" before coming to the "very difficult conclusion" that the school is not sustainable.

Parents at Newcastle CE Primary School are up in arms over a decision to consult on a proposal to ship children out of the school in Newcastle upon Clun in advance of another possible proposal to close it completely.

In a statement issued on behalf of Shropshire Council and The Blue Hills Federation they said a four-week consultation launched on March 3 is set down in law for such issues.

The three schools in The Blue Hills Federation Clunbury CE Primary School, St Mary’s CE Primary School, Bucknell and Newcastle CE Primary have worked closely together since 2016 and this working partnership became formal when the schools federated in September 2017.

A spokesman said: "Due primarily to a fall in pupil numbers at Newcastle CE Primary School, the governing body of The Blue Hills Federation has put forward a proposal to transfer education provision for the school’s pupils to one of the other two schools in their federation.

"Subject to the outcome of a statutory consultation process, parents are able to opt for their children to continue their education at either Clunbury CE Primary School or St Mary’s CE Primary School, Bucknell should they prefer. They may also opt to take their children to other local schools should they wish."

They added that having considered "all of the possible options available to them, the governing body has reached the very difficult conclusion that it is not possible to maintain viable and sustainable education provision on the Newcastle CE Primary School site at this present time.

"The demographic data on forecast pupil numbers suggests that this will not change or improve sufficiently in the foreseeable future."

Parents say they have presented options for increasing pupil numbers at the school but those have not been acted on. There are currently 22 children at the school with a forecast that this will fall to 20.

The spokesperson added: "Newcastle CE Primary School has had low pupil numbers for several years.

"The number of children available in the catchment area has dropped significantly and the school has relied heavily on attracting children from outside the catchment area for a number of years.

"Demographics within the wider local area show a decreasing number of children, which is having further impact on the school."

A change to take pupils out of the school but not to close it is known as a ‘prescribed alteration’.

The spokesman says the Department for Education (DfE) statutory guidance for making such a significant change is subject to a statutory four-week consultation period.

The consultation was launched on March 3 and will run until noon on March 31.

This is to enable parents and members of the community to express their views and have them heard. The consultation document can be accessed via the school’s website at

The spokesman adds: "Governors propose to continue provision on the Newcastle CE Primary School site until the end of July 2023 in the belief that the start of a new school year on the new sites would be most beneficial to the children in maintaining friendship groups and for continuity in their education and learning."

In line with the DfE statutory guidance, and subject to the outcome of the consultation process, the Governing Body will make a recommendation on how to proceed, which will go Shropshire Council’s Cabinet for a final decision at its meeting on May 17.

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