Agenda and minutes

Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Wednesday, 17th April, 2024 2.00 pm

Venue: The Grand, County Hall, Northallerton, DL7 8AD

Contact: Alice Fox, Senior Scrutiny Officer, Email: 

No. Item


Welcome by the Chair


The Chair welcomed people to the meeting.


Apologies for Absence


Apologies for absence were received from Councillor Nathan Hull and Co-opted Member Andrew Smith.


Minutes of the Meeting held on 28 February 2024 pdf icon PDF 646 KB


Resolved –


That the Minutes of the meeting held on 28th February 2024 be confirmed and signed by the Chair as a correct record.


Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest made.


Public Participation

Members of the public may ask questions or make statements at this meeting if they have given notice to Alice Fox of Democratic and Scrutiny Services and supplied the text (contact details below) by midday on 12th April, three working days before the day of the meeting.  Each speaker should limit themselves to 3 minutes on any item.  Members of the public who have given notice will be invited to speak:-

·         at this point in the meeting if their questions/statements relate to matters which are not otherwise on the Agenda (subject to an overall time limit of 30 minutes);

·         when the relevant Agenda item is being considered if they wish to speak on a matter which is on the Agenda for this meeting.

If you are exercising your right to speak at this meeting, but do not wish to be recorded, please inform the Chair who will instruct anyone who may be taking a recording to cease while you speak.



Two public statements had been received from members of the public and read as follows:


Statement 1

Dear Councillors,


My name is Steven Ledger and I’m a former parent of Fountains Earth CofE Primary School in Lofthouse. 


7 years ago I relocated to Lofthouse from Durham for a job opportunity in the area. The main concern of my wife and I about relocating was our children’s schooling. Having visited Fountains Earth prior to accepting the job offer we were lost for words. The teaching staff, office staff and the headteacher were all second to none. After seeing the evidence of what this small yet fantastically equipped school was achieving, we relocated. After just three months at Fountains Earth our daughter’s academic abilities had improved to a standard much beyond recognition. She excelled, as did her older brother. He was only there for a short time as he moved up to high school shortly afterwards, but the few months he spent at Fountains Earth saw his confidence soar. 


At this time there were approximately 15 children in attendance, with 2 full time teachers and 1 part time teacher alongside office staff and a cook/lunchtime assistant. The one to one teaching and attention that each child received had an incredibly positive impact on their schooling as well as their emotional well-being. They were all happy, safe and learning. Our daughter was excited to go to school each day. The school really was second to none and was very much the heart of the community. Communication was excellent and parents were invited into school regularly to see the children’s progress and achievements.


A group made up of local residents and parents (FOLS) did a lot of fundraising and this made up any shortage of funding for things such as school trip and  swimming lessons. Much of the time, funds were raised above what was needed, so that paid for a party for the children at the end of the school year. I think it’s important for me to mention this as it goes to show that Fountains Earth was financially viable.


Towards the end of 2021, new management took over. Shortly afterwards, the cook left and hot meals were stopped. A replacement was employed and was a sent to St Cuthberts to pick up sandwiches on a Monday. These were stored and served throughout the week, ultimately being stale by Wednesday. This was also stopped eventually, and the children had to have packed lunches from home. The original, much loved teacher suddenly left, with no warning or explanation to the children or the parents.


Other staff left one by one within 6 months, again with no explanation. The school then relied on temporary agency staff with a different one every week. The children were left confused, unsettled and their leaning disrupted. Work was usually generic worksheets  rather than structured teaching. All communication with parents was stopped, therefore all confidence and trust we once had in the school evaporated. Any meetings between parents and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.


Chair's Introduction pdf icon PDF 347 KB


The Chair explained the purpose and format of the Call-In meeting, which had been requested after the Executive Meeting on 19th March 2024, when Members agreed to cease to maintain Fountains Earth, Lofthouse Church of England Endowed Primary School. The Chair outlined the Call-In process, the report can be found under Item 6 in the agenda reports pack.


The Committee noted the summary provided by the Chair.


Call in of the Executive Decision - Proposal to cease to maintain Fountains Earth, Lofthouse Church of England Endowed Primary School pdf icon PDF 353 KB

Additional documents:




The Chair informed the Committee of the decision made by the Executive at the meeting held on 19th March 2024 regarding the Proposal to cease to maintain Fountains Earth, Lofthouse Church of England Endowed Primary School, which was:


i)     To cease to maintain Fountains Earth, Lofthouse CE Endowed Primary School with effect from 31st  March 2024.

ii)    To extend the catchment area of St Cuthbert’s Church of England Primary School, Pateley Bridge with effect from 1st April 2024 to include the area currently served by Fountains Earth, Lofthouse CE Endowed Primary School.


The Chair explained that after the Executive meeting, a notice was made by Councillor Andrew Murday, with support from Councillors Monika Slater, Peter Lacy, Steve Mason, Bryn Griffiths and Dan Sladden. The notice gave three reasons for the Call-In:


1)   Pupil numbers: at present there are no pupils at the school. However, if the issues that led the parents to withdraw their children from the school were to be resolved, then pupils would return. There is a strong belief amongst the parents and the local community that conditions in the school deteriorated in order to depopulate it. Furthermore, the projected numbers into the future were disputed, and this was not made clear in the reports to the Executive.


2)   Educational standard:  the school received a ‘good’ rating on inspection in June 2022. It was strange, therefore, that the governing body of the Upper Nidderdale Federation requested a month later that NYCC should consider closing the school. Although that request was withdrawn, it spread the seeds of doubt, so that parents considered thereafter that the school was under threat. This rating is difficult to reconcile with the view that the education standard provided at the school was inadequate, another reason given for the closure. The implication of this request by the Governors in 2022 was not considered by the executive.


3)   Financial: a further factor leading to the Executive’s closure decision, recorded in the minutes, was the financial cost of keeping an empty school open. At the time of closure, the school had no permanent teaching staff. The cost of maintenance of the buildings over a relatively short period of time until it reopens would be minimal. Compared to this, the costs of home-to school transport from Lofthouse to other schools in Nidderdale will be substantial and will outweigh the maintenance cost. The burden for the children, some as young as 4 years old, of travelling many miles each day to attend a distant school will be considerable. The details of the financial costs were not made clear in the documents provided or in the discussion at the Executive meeting.

The Chair stressed that today’s meeting was to consider the decision making process taken by the Executive, such as whether they had all the relevant information to hand to sufficiently inform them when making the decision, or whether other options were adequately considered in the report presented to them on 19th March.  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


Any Other Items

Any other items which the Chair agrees should be considered as a matter of urgency because of special circumstances


There were no other items.


Date of Next Meeting

Friday, 21 June 2024 at 10am


This would be held on Friday 21st June 2024 at County Hall in Northallerton, commencing at 10.00 a.m.


The meeting concluded at 3.05 p.m.