Shelton Lower School is under threat of closure in September 2019 Credit: John Guinn

Threat to local lower school

Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) is about to enter a consultation period over the potential closure of Shelton Lower School.

School PTFA member, Caroline Burns, said:

“The announcement came out of the blue for both parents and the PTFA.”

Shelton Lower, which is a small rural lower school, has an overall pupil capacity of 75. CBC says that it has not been full for a number of years and forecasts that this fall in pupils will continue. Only 4 children have requested a place in the September intake, leaving space for 11 more pupils.

Ms Burns said:

“In terms of other schools, this is a big issue. Children would have to be scattered across Wootton Lower, Cranfield and Church End [Marston Moretaine].

“Assume one lives in Upper Shelton, there is no safe walking route to Cranfield or Wootton. The walking route to Church End is 1.8 miles, Google suggest a 34 mins walk. Try that with a 5-year-old and toddler siblings.”

The closure, which could happen by September 2019, could result in more cars travelling during the morning peak.  A school bus is one item that parents will be looking for during the consultation. A bus would have to take parents to and from the replacement school.

Ms Burns said:

“We can’t put 5-year olds on a bus.”

The schools near Shelton Lower School. Click on the icons for more information

School ‘is not viable’

Cllr Steve Dixon, Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said:

“Unfortunately, despite Shelton Lower School’s great reputation there aren’t currently enough pupils attending the school to make it financially viable.

“We have been looking at options with the school and we are in agreement that we will consult on possible closure.”

The Department for Education has a set of guidelines to follow when a council is looking into closing a rural school. The case for a closure must be strong and in the best interests of the provision of education services in the area.

Primary school places have increased in Central Bedfordshire

Considerations to investigate when closing a rural school

The local authority must carefully consider:

  • The likely effect of the closure of the school on the local community educational standards at the school and the likely effect on standards at neighbouring schools
  • The availability, and likely cost to the local authority, of transport to other schools
  • Any increase in the use of motor vehicles which is likely to result from the closure of the school, and the likely effects of any such increase
  • Any alternatives to the closure of the school

A spokesperson for CBC said:

“Schools are allocated funding based on the number of pupils they have and there is a point at which schools cannot continue because they have too few pupils and therefore inadequate funding to keep operating.

“Shelton Lower School has, this year, gone into a budget deficit position and this looks set to continue.”

The PTFA’s fight against closure can be followed on its Facebook page.