THE next few months are 'make or break' time for a small village school, governors have said.

The school at Sutton-under-Whitestonecliff, near Thirsk, has only 39 pupils. It is joined to the village hall, which is used by teachers and pupils during the day.

The hall building has become run down and plans are now being developed for it be demolished and a new one built in its place.

But Alec Hornsby, chairman of the board of governors, said that decision posed a threat to the school.

He said: "The school is most definitely at risk. This is make or break for us. Something has to happen because we can't continue like this."

He said there were concerns about the disruption to the school while the new hall is built. "The hall space is essential to us, and if that was taken away we would struggle to stay open," he said.

A second problem is the lack of a school playground.

Mr Hornsby said that for the school to remain on the site, it was legally required to develop a playground, which would be funded by North Yorkshire County Council's education committee.

But past negotiations between the authority and the village institute committee have repeatedly broken down.

Mr Hornsby said: "Without a playground the school is finished.

"But the authority has the resources and the committee has the land and we are stuck in the middle."

David Walkland, trustee of the village institute, said there were hopes to develop a dual-use playground area.

He said: "We are not kicking the school off the site. Everything can be accommodated on there.

"What has happened in the past will not spill over into these fresh negotiations."

But Mr Hornsby said one option being considered by the governors was to build a new 50-pupil school on a greenfield site. He said governors were looking into applying for outline planning permission, and examining the finances.

"We have had numerous accolades and run a very good school, despite children having to work in terrible conditions," he said.

"It is early days and there is a lot to consider, but things will certainly have to change, one way or another."