Mid Wales

Historic Whitton primary school faces Powys costs vote

School children
Image caption Whitton primary school has been open since 1724

The future of a primary school that has been open for nearly 300 years will be decided as Powys council considers plans for its first "super school".

Whitton primary school, Presteigne, opened in 1724 but now has just 21 pupils. Powys reviews any school with fewer than 35 pupils.

The council's cabinet is also proposing to open the new super-school at Machynlleth by September 2014.

A charity has offered to pay £120,000 towards surplus places at Whitton.

The high cost of maintaining low pupil numbers is one of the reasons for the proposed closure of Whitton primary school by 31 August next year.

The school opened in a barn in the village in 1724 after Dame Anna Child, who died in 1703, bequeathed £500 to pay for a schoolmaster to teach the children of Whitton and Pilleth.

The school may be thrown a life-line because a charitable trust which has financially supported the campus since the beginning will be consulted if councillors vote to close it.

'Difficult position'

Dame Anna Child's Endowed School Trust has already offered to pay £120,000 over the next three years to reduce the cost of funding per pupil to the county average.

Graham Skipworth, the school's chair of governors, said the school - which claims to be the oldest non-denominational aided school in England and Wales - was set to increase pupils on its register 29 by January.

He said: "I don't know why the trust's offer hasn't been taken up by the county council and we are in a very difficult position.

"Our new head teacher has increased the number of pupils by 40% in one term and we have five pupils who could not cope with a large school environment who are doing well after being placed in our school."

Mr Skipworth added that the trust's trustees would meet to discuss the school's future on Friday.

Cut costs

The Powys council cabinet meeting on Tuesday will also consider the merger of Machynlleth primary and secondary schools for pupils aged four to 18.

The town's primary and secondary schools would remain on separate sites in the town but with a single governing body.

The authority has been reviewing schools as part of a modernisation project to cut costs and tackle surplus places.

Last year it closed 10 primary schools and built four new replacements in the Maesydderwen catchment area in and around Ystradgynlais.

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