Future use of Lancashire's "smallest school" yet to be decided
There was sadness when a 170 year old Lancashire school had to close. Now its owner says he is considering how the building and site can be best used in the future.
An historic former primary school building, which once had the distinction of being the smallest school in Lancashire, is facing an uncertain future.
Bleasdale CE school, near Longridge, reverted to the Bleasdale estate following the closure of the church school after 170 years educating local pupils.
It had become renowned as the smallest school in the county when pupil numbers dropped, with the final school roll reduced to just two youngsters.
The doors closed to pupils in July 2019 and now owner Jeremy Duckworth says the estate is considering new uses for it.
He said: "Quite sadly the school had to close despite the best efforts of people in the local community to keep it going. We struggled for many years to get a good attendance there."
He said he had hoped that the school could survive as pupil numbers can change and go up over time. He said: "My own children went there and they had a fantastic education there. It was a beautiful place and one of the most secure and scenic locations you could have for a primary school. We are now looking at an empty school building but we are considering what we might be able to do with it...at the moment all options are open. We're at a very early stage investigating the future of it."
He said the building returned to the estate under the terms of the original deed of gift: "It was gifted as a local primary school and for no other purposes. It's right in the centre of the estate. It's a comfort to us to know it's come back - it does leave us with the challenge of knowing what to do with it."
He added: "We have managed to renovate the old school house and that is now let."
A service was held at St Eadmer's Church in Bleasdale in July 2019 to celebrate the school's long history and achievements. The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop Julian Henderson and Rev Steve Cooper, Team Rector of the Fellside ministry team, officiated at the service which was attended by past and current pupils, teachers,staff, parents and headteachers.
The school's governors had made a formal request to the local education authority Lancashire County Council to consult on the school's closure, in consultation with the Diocese of Blackburn.
This week Rev Steve said the school was returned to the estate as required by the 1842 Gifts Act: "There was a legal requirement that the trustees of the school returned the school to the heirs and successors of the original donors - the Bleasdale estate. The Bleasdale estate is seeking to find a future use for it. If it can have educational use that would be wonderful."
It was in April 2019 that Lancashire County Council's cabinet voted to issue a statutory notice re. the proposal to close the school. At that time Edwina Grant the council's executive director for education and children's services, said: "Unfortunately, we have to acknowledge the reality that the school is no longer financially viable with such incredibly low pupil numbers. There will only be one pupil attending the school from September this year and this figure may only increase by a few pupils over the coming years so there really is no other option. Our paramount concern is always to provide the best education we can for all young people."
For our report about the school's closure see here.
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