A CONSULTATION is under way over controversial plans to close an independent North-East preparatory school.

Parents, staff and pupils at Yarm at Raventhorpe School, in Darlington, were told of the plans following the Christmas holidays.

A report last year by the Independent Schools’ Inspectorate found it to be excellent in most areas.

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Yarm at Raventhorpe School currently teaches 80 pupils aged from three to 11 years, with 18 teachers and support staff.

A letter to parents states says that governors had looked at keeping the school open, but added: “This would have to be funded by a substantial increase in pupil numbers.

“We believe that reduction in demand in Darlington and physical constraints at Raventhorpe make this unrealistic.

“In short, we do not believe that Yarm at Raventhorpe can attract and accommodate enough pupils to make it a viable going concern.

“We are proposing to close Yarm at Raventhorpe with effect from the end of this academic year.”

This is the second time that the school has faced closure in recent years.

In 2006, the governors of Raventhorpe Prep School ran into financial difficulties and asked Yarm School to help them out.

Yarm School, an educational charity, agreed to take the school over in a bid to try to save it.

Pupil numbers have grown, but remain small and the school has continued to need subsidy from Yarm.

If the proposal goes ahead, all pupils have been guaranteed a place at Yarm Prep School and transport to Yarm would be provided from September.

Yarm Headteacher David Dunn said: “If the proposal to close Raventhorpe goes ahead it will be very sad, but its pupils can be reassured of a very warm welcome here at Yarm.”

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: “This is a crying shame. It is a fabulous school.

“The children are challenged there, but in a very caring and compassionate environment.

“We do not attach any blame to Raventhorpe and we will continue to send our children to Yarm, but Darlington needs the standard of education offered by schools such as Raventhorpe.”

Overall, Yarm School has more than 1,000 pupils and recently completed an investment in new facilities, with plans for further developments.