CHESHIRE East Council has authorised the closure of an unviable primary school, with councillors raising concerns about the future of other schools facing financial crisis.

St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School in Bollington has just three pupils on roll and will officially close on December 31.

Director of education Claire Williamson told the children and families committee today (Monday): “I had a personal call with the remaining three parents on Friday and all children now have provisions and are starting their transition and have had confirmation of their school places.”

She said consultations were taking place with staff who were facing redundancy.

The committee was told St Gregory’s, which can cater for 105 pupils, had been a ‘school causing concern’ for a considerable period, particularly because of its declining pupil numbers, and that it has operated with a challenging three-year deficit budget.

In February of last year, Ofsted said it provided an inadequate education for its pupils.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr George HayesCllr George Hayes (Image: Cheshire East Council)Congleton councillor George Hayes (Con), wanted to know how many maintained schools in Cheshire East are forecasting future budget challenges and deficits and what interventions could be made to avoid a similar situation relating to financial viability in the future.

Poynton councillor Jos Saunders (Con) shared his concern.

“I do hope other schools are going to get the support that they need to basically turn it round because I really do not want to be sat here having to make this sort of decision again,” she said. “It’s very sad.”

Ms Williamson said the council’s officers were working with schools with regard to their financial situation during these difficult times.

“We would give assurance that officers would try their hardest to ensure we are not in this situation again, however there would be no guarantees,” she told the committee.

Northwich Guardian: Cllr Carol BulmanCllr Carol Bulman (Image: Cheshire East Council)Committee chair Carol Bulman (Middlewich, Lab) said she had visited a number of schools last year  ‘and there were many well-run schools in Cheshire who were fearing this year, because they felt they might go bankrupt this year, so it’s a very real problem’.

Councillors and officers expressed their regret at the closure of St Gregory’s.

Six councillors voted to approve the closure, effective from December 31 2023, one voted against and four abstained.