A DECISION to close schools early on the day before the Tour de France arrives in North Yorkshire because of predicted travel chaos has been criticised by parents.

Primary and secondary schools across Richmondshire have told parents they plan to close at 1pm on Friday, July 4, or close altogether.

Many schools have made the decision following estimates of thousands of visitors descending on Dales communities to watch the largest sporting event in the world.

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But some parents have criticised the move – especially in light of new rules that mean they can no longer take children out of school without facing a fine.

Parent and Leyburn business owner Chris Ford said his main problem was the lack of flexibility for parents needing to take children out of school during the school year.

He said: “My issue is that we are not allowed to take our children out of school at all but this has been thrust upon us.”

Mr Ford, who has two children aged six and nine at Leyburn Primary School, added: “I don’t see what difference two and a half hours is going to make.

“There seems to be a lack of respect and understanding for parents and what they have to cope with.”

Brompton-on-Swale and Hipswell primary schools will also be closing from 1pm – but Le Cateau Primary School in the garrison is currently due to remain open.

Wensleydale School, in Leyburn, and Richmond School will be closing for the whole day.

Ian Roberton, headteacher of Richmond School, said: “Tour de France organisers are expecting thousands of vehicles to descend upon the area and because the schools along Darlington Road are located in one of the main routes to the Dales it is likely that travelling anywhere in or around Richmond is going to be challenging to say the least.”

Neighbouring St Francis Xavier School is also closing for the full day.

The school’s website has published a letter from North Yorkshire County Council director for children’s services Pete Dwyer, which said: “There could be a considerable amount of disruption to travel, which may have an adverse effect on the well-being and safety of pupils attempting to make their way home.”

Headteacher Sharon Keelan-Beardsley said: “Staff have been asked to provide students with material for home study and staff will also planning next year, so it is very much a working day.

“Closing the school is not a decision governors or local authority take lightly and we would all prefer the day not to be disrupted, however given the unusual circumstances, it was our only option.”