Options for the future of Dean Hole Church of England Primary School
The Governing Body of Dean Hole Church of England Primary School has requested that Nottinghamshire County Council seek the views of interested parties regarding the future of Dean Hole Church of England Primary School.
Dean Hole Church of England Primary School is a small school with a published admission number of eight, serving the village of Caunton in the Caunton-Norwell primary planning area in the district of Newark. The school is maintained by Nottinghamshire County Council. The last Ofsted inspection of the school (February 2019) rated the school as ‘good’.
The Governing Body of Dean Hole Primary has made it clear that as a result of the current challenges faced by the school there is a need for a formal consultation process to be followed.
Nottinghamshire County Council is consequently following the prescribed process described in ‘Opening and closing maintained schools: Statutory guidance for proposers and decision-makers’ published by the Department for Education, January 2023. See:
According to the above, Stage One of the process makes it a statutory requirement to consult with any parties the Local Authority (LA) thinks appropriate before publishing proposals that may lead to the closure of a school: Proposing to close (discontinue) a maintained school (Page 22).
Dean Hole Church of England Primary School is designated as a rural school and Nottinghamshire County Council will therefore also follow the guidelines regarding the presumption against the closure of rural schools.
On 12 June 2023, Nottinghamshire County Council commenced this statutory consultation to explore options for Dean Hole C of E Primary School, including possible closure, at the request of the Governing Body, by meeting directly with those staff, parents and carers directly involved with the school, with the Governors, the representatives of the Diocese and relevant union representatives.
The Governing Body and the Local Authority will use this consultation to consider a range of options for the future of a school (e.g. amalgamation, academisation, federation or closure). The information gathered from stakeholders will be used to inform the publication of specific proposals according to Stage Two of the statutory process outlined in Appendix One.
Reasons for consultation
1. Declining Pupil Numbers
In recent years there have been significant concerns about declining pupil numbers at Dean Hole Church of England Primary School. Over the recent past, this small rural school has experienced a decline in pupil numbers. At the time of the most recent Ofsted inspection in February 2019, 48 pupils were on the school’s roll. By the time of the last statutory school census, undertaken by the school in January 2023, there were 26 pupils on roll.
The table below shows the number of pupils attending the school over the past four years on the Department for Education’s census dates:
Table 1. Number of pupils on roll at Dean Hole Church of England Primary School
In January 2022, there were 40 primary school aged pupils in the catchment area of Dean Hole C of E Primary School. Of these children, only 11 pupils attended Dean Hole.
There is little housing development planned in the catchment area of Dean Hole C of E Primary School. It is therefore not expected that the number of pupils in the school catchment area will increase in the short to medium term.
2. School leadership
Governors have met with the LA twice during 2023 due to difficulties in securing a headteacher or any other suitable leadership solution. The school will have an executive headteacher until the end of 2023.
3. School financial position
Due to the reduction in the number of pupils on roll, Dean Hole C of E Primary School has seen a reduction in the funding they receive to run the school in recent years. This has resulted in significant financial challenges.
4. Difficulty in offering a broad and balanced curriculum
Schools are required to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum. The Governing Body of Dean Hole C of E Primary School is concerned that the projected numbers on roll will render this objective very difficult to achieve in the future.
5. Safeguarding against future risk
Due to the low number of teaching staff employed by the school, it has become very difficult to cover absences that occur due to unforeseen circumstances.
a) Continue with no change
This is a highly cost-inefficient option and is not sustainable. Nottinghamshire County Council has a responsibility to ensure the efficient use of public money. Pupils require access to a broad and balanced curriculum, and a school must have secure leadership in place.
The DfE and Local Authority are not able to insist that Dean Hole C of E Primary School join a Multi Academy Trust (MAT). To date, the Governing Body and the Dioceses have not been able to identify a Church MAT solution for the school. With low pupils on roll it is highly unlikely that any MAT would deem it viable to admit Dean Hole C of E Primary School into their Trust.
Federated schools operate in collaboration with each other, sharing senior staff and possibly governing bodies, which allows them to maximise good educational practice, while achieving economies of scale.
For this option to be feasible, Dean Hole C of E Primary School would be required to work with the Local Authority to identify another school that would see the benefits in federation.
With low numbers of pupils on roll and uncertainty regarding Dean Hole’s future, it is highly unlikely that another school would deem it viable to federate with Dean Hole C of E Primary School.
Should Dean Hole C of E Primary School amalgamate with another school it would close and reform as part of a new and bigger entity, i.e. a new amalgamated school.
For practical reasons, an amalgamation would need to be with another school within reasonable travelling distance.
Latest Ofsted Rating
Distance (miles) *
Norwell C of E Primary School
Good (March 2019)
Muskham Primary School
Good (June 2019)
Holy Trinity C of E Infant School
Outstanding (Sept 2013)
Lowe’s Wong Infant School
Outstanding (April 2009)
Lowe’s Wong Junior School
Good (Dec 2019)
Kirklington Primary School
Good (March 2023)
*Distance measured by road
A proposed amalgamation would be sponsored and led by the LA. The LA cannot compel another school to amalgamate with Dean Hole C of E Primary School
With low numbers of pupils on roll and uncertainty regarding Dean Hole’s future, it is highly unlikely that another school would deem it viable to amalgamate with Dean Hole C of E Primary School.
The Local Authority has a statutory duty to ensure the efficient use of resources. Maintaining a school for a few pupils could not be considered efficient given that there are surplus places in other local schools.
The Local Authority also has a duty to respond to concerns raised by the school leadership and Governing Body of Dean Hole C of E Primary School regarding its ongoing viability.
Closure would require all pupils on roll at Dean Hole C of E Primary School to join the roll of another school.
It is extremely important to note that at this point in time no definitive decision has been made about the future of the school.
Take part in the consultation
Please state your preference for which of the options outlined in the accompanying report should be adopted.
- Continue with no change
Please provide reasons for your views.
- Written comments can be sent to: The Corporate Director of Children and Family Services, Pupil Place Planning, County Hall, West Bridgford, Nottingham, NG2 7QP
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
To be received no later than 23:59 hrs on 24 July 2023
Appendix one – Prescribed stages and proposed timeline for the consultation process to consider the future of Dean Hole Church of England Primary School
12 June to 24 July 2023
This is the start of the process where the Local Authority provides information about what is being proposed and gathers the views on interested parties to help them develop the proposals.
4 September 2023
A legal notice is published in the local paper (usually the Newark Advertiser) and on the council website which sets out brief details of the proposal and where more information can be found. It also gives details of where objections and comments can be sent and the closing date for these. It marks the start of the representation period or formal consultation.
4 September to 2 October 2023
This is the formal consultation stage. During this period, any person or organisation can submit comments on the proposal to the LA, to be taken into account by the decision maker.
All of the objections and comments gathered during the representation period are provided to the decision maker (Local Authority Elected Members) to enable them to make the final decision. A statutory notice outlining the decision will be published.
The decision made in stage four is implemented.