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Primary schools merger takes step forward as consultation agreed

Plans to merge two Harrogate primary schools which are performing at opposite ends of the spectrum have taken a step forward.

Plans to merge two Harrogate primary schools which are performing at opposite ends of the spectrum have taken a step forward. North Yorkshire County Council has today agreed to move to the consultation stage of the proposals for Woodfield Community Primary School and Grove Road Community Primary School, with parents set to be asked for their views from 2 December. The schools sit just half a mile apart, but have very different ratings, pupils numbers and finances. Grove Road is rated as "good" by Ofsted inspectors, while Woodfield is judged “inadequate” and currently in special measures. Woodfield has also failed to find an academy trust willing to take it over. And because pupil numbers determine the level of funding that a school receives, it is forecasting to be almost £333,000 in debt by 2024 due to the 49 pupils on its books. At Grove Road, the school is currently operating at capacity with almost 300 pupils and is forecasting a budget surplus by 2026. Speaking today, councillor Patrick Mulligan, executive member for education and skills at the county council, described the proposed merger as an “exciting opportunity” for both schools and said the authority would listen to all comments during the consultation. He said:

“We are confident it will achieve the best possible provision for all pupils, and importantly ensuring that the Woodfield site continues to be used for education of the wider community. “The proposed amalgamation would be achieved through the technical closure of Woodfield School, and the enlargement of Grove Road School through future use of the Woodfield site.”
A new leadership team was appointed at Woodfield when it was placed into special measures in January 2020 and an Ofsted monitoring report has since said “effective action” is being taken to remove the worst-possible rating. However, councillor Mulligan said these arrangements were only ever temporary and that the merger has been proposed as the school still faces an “uncertain future”. He said:
“The two governing bodies carefully considered the proposals before half term, and both agreed to ask us to start a consultation. “We have worked together with the schools to assess how education provision within the Woodfield community could best be preserved. “Families, staff, and other members of the local community will have opportunities to consider the detail of the proposals during the consultation period.”
The consultation will run until 22 January next year before a final decision is made by the county council three months later in April. If approved, the merger would create a single primary school operating on both school sites from September 2022. By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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