Wigan primary school under financial pressure with "falling pupil numbers" set to close despite opposition from families

A Wigan primary school “under financial pressure” with “falling pupil numbers” is set to close despite children’s anxiety.

Our Lady’s Immaculate Catholic Primary at Bryn has been issued a statutory notice of closure by Wigan Council following a cabinet meeting last week.

It’s the second ordered to close by the council in the space of a few months.

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The decision to close came after a period of consultation which saw strong opposition from 234 people with only five in support of closure.

Our Lady’s Immaculate Catholic Primary School

A number of current pupils were asked about a potential move and some expressed "anxiety” over “not knowing anyone” in the new school and being “bullied” for being the new kids.

In contrast, some of the 13 children questioned said they would also look forward to making new friends at a new school.

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The school itself was concerned this decision would “leave families without a Catholic primary school in the North Ashton community.”

“Based on the information provided in the consultation document, there is a shortfall of Catholic places within the Ashton area in all year groups, particularly Year 2 and Year 4,” their statement said.

“The nearest Catholic primary schools would be St Oswald’s Catholic Primary School or St Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary.

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St Oswald’s is 1.8 miles away from OLI; an eight minute drive but a 35 minute walk.

“St Wilfrid’s is 2 miles away from OLI; a seven-minute drive but a 38-minute walk. Both of these options would not therefore be accessible to families without their own cars.

“Therefore we would argue that closing OLI would leave families without a local Catholic primary school.”

This concern was shared by the Archdiocese of Liverpool, who could still take action by attempting to academise the school before it is closed.

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Both parties suggested this could impact on the local Catholic high school St Edmund Arrowsmith.

This could see a "knock-on effect if families choose to access a non-Catholic primary school,” they said.

Parents and teachers raised concerns at a meeting with the council back in June that their children would not be offered a place at another catholic school they want due to availability.

There were also points raised about special care plans for children and how this would be maintained with a change in schools.

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Council officers said that first-choice places in new schools could not be guaranteed but any special needs requirements would be fully supported.

Of the 28 pupils on the roll at OLI as of September 6, 2022, 16 have already applied to transfer to another school, a report stated.

Projections made by the council suggest the school would be in £574,186 of debt by 2024/25 and school numbers would be cut by a half in the same period.

With the number of students falling, the amount of government funding the Downall Green Road site gets would reduce.

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After being labelled “inadequate” by an Ofsted inspection back in April, the Department for Education issued an academy order – which would see the school run directly by the government and not Wigan Council.

Despite this, the council believes "a conversion is highly unlikely to increase the number of children on roll at the school,” and went ahead with the decision to close the school.

This comes after the news earlier this year that Abram Bryn Gates Primary School, just down the road from OLI in Bamfurlong, was shut by Wigan Council.