Northamptonshire County Council's decision to close village school to be challenged at High Court

Parents and staff at Great Creaton Primary School are fighting its closure.
Parents and staff at Great Creaton Primary School are fighting its closure.

Specialist lawyers instructed by the mother of a Northamptonshire reception pupil have issued urgent judicial review proceedings to challenge the closure of a primary school in the county.

The decision to close Great Creaton Primary School was approved by Northamptonshire County Council in September this year, leaving the school marked for closure on December 31.

Following the council’s decision, parent Kirsty Lowe instructed lawyers to fight the closure on behalf of her four-year-old daughter, Maya, who is a current pupil at Great Creaton.

The legal firm Irwin Mitchell has also previously challenged the closure of libraries in the county on behalf of local residents and is involved in cases to challenge other local authority cuts to services across the country.

The lawyers have issued an application for judicial review, seeking to overturn the council’s plans to close the school.

An urgent interim relief application has now been listed for Wednesday, December 12, in Birmingham.

The interim relief hearing will consider whether the closure of the school should be delayed pending the final determination of the judicial review application.

Caroline Barrett, representing Maya, said: “Great Creaton Primary School is an important part of our client’s life, as well as being an integral part of the local community.

“It is a small rural primary school but it provides a vital service in a largely rural county where access to other neighbouring schools can be difficult. Great Creaton is valued by our client and her family as having a warm and friendly setting and has traditionally been a popular choice for parents of children with additional needs as a result.

“Our client believes that the council’s decision is unlawful for numerous reasons, including a failure to lawfully consult with local residents and pupils and to properly consider the impact of the closure on the local community, children with special educational needs, and those who had chosen Great Creaton School specifically because it is a non-denominational school. It is our client’s view that these failings are such that the decision to close Great Creaton School was unlawful.

“Although pupil numbers have been falling in recent years, our client considers that numbers could once again increase with a change in school management, a fresh approach and, hopefully, the support of a local Multi Academy Trust.

“It is vital that an interim relief hearing is heard before the planned closure to ensure the school has the chance to stay open and continue to provide educational services to its pupils pending full determination of the case.”

Great Creaton Primary School, near Brixworth, is a small school with only 25 pupils at the end of the last academic year. The council said that the school’s small size would affect its ability to deliver the curriculum.

In January 2018, OFSTED rated the school as ‘requires improvement’. However, at no point did the inspection and regulatory body conclude that the school’s issues were a result of its small size, Irwin Mitchell says.

Small rural primary schools are given extra protection under the law and councils must consider closing these schools only as a last resort.

Parents argue that the school’s small size and unique and nurturing environment is a positive for many of those who send their son or daughter to the school.

Kirsty, 41, who is part of the Great Creaton Parents Group that was formed to protest the council’s proposal to close the school, said: “I am fighting to keep the school opened because it provides a crucial service for Maya, and the rest of the school’s pupils.

“Although, naturally, we hope that in the coming months and years school attendance will return to sustainable levels, Maya really benefits from the small size of the school, and its positive and welcoming atmosphere. It would be devastating both for Maya and for the other children attending the school, if it was to close.

“Many parents withdrew their children at the end of the summer term because of the threat of closure, but most of them were deeply upset about having to leave Great Creaton. There is a huge amount of local support for the school and I am doing what I can for Maya, to try to save her school.”