A village school in Cumbria continues to employ six members of staff, despite the fact that it no longer has any pupils.
Ravenstonedale Endowed School bid farewell to its last pupils earlier this month, but still keeps a cook, a cleaner, a secretary and two teaching assistants on the payroll alongside headmistress Vicki Boggon.
The surreal situation began when Ofsted officials arrived to assess the school in April, when there were 13 pupils enrolled. A damning report issued by inspectors found the school 'inadequate', accusing the dozen or so pupils of racism, homophobia and violent bullying.
The report baffled staff at the school, not least because a previous Ofsted inspection in February last year did not mention any issues with bigotry or bullying, with inspectors commenting that 'all parents and staff said children were safe in school',
"The vast majority felt that bullying was dealt with effectively," according to last year's assessment. "Pupils say there is no bullying, although they did say there was some 'silly' name calling."
However, April's report painted a very different picture. "There are too many incidents of racist and homophobic bullying, together with some serious instances of violence towards one another," inspectors found, recommending that Ravenstonedale be placed under special measures.
No specific examples were cited by Ofsted officials, but head of governors Liz Morgan suggests that an isolated incident in which one pupil called another 'gay' had been blown out of proportion.
Unsurprisingly, parents began withdrawing their children from the troubled school, although in a letter to Ms Boggan dated 18 September, Ofsted inspector Susan Wareing admitted that 'no instances of racism or bullying of any kind have been recorded since the last inspection'.
The two remaining pupils have now left the school, which has been at the heart of the village since 1873 and could once accommodate 56 children, yet six members of staff remain on their full salaries.
"We're exploring options with staff about how we might be able to deploy them to other schools when close-down procedures have been completed," a Cumbria County Council spokesman told the Daily Mail.
However, a document issued by the council on the proposed closure of the school says that their scheduled consultation process means that it will be April 2015 before the school is officially closed - suggesting the bizarre situation could yet be dragged out for another six months.
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