Warnings over schools at risk in Yorkshire seaside town as rising numbers of holiday homes cause pupil shortages

The numbers of holiday lets and second homes is beginning to impact on the sustainability of schools in a seaside town and its neighbouring rural villages, campaigners have warned.

Saturday, 18th June 2022, 6:00 am

Earlier this week, residents of Whitby, voted overwhelmingly in favour of having a ban on any new build properties being allowed to be sold for use as holiday and second homes, amid fears there are not enough pupils to keep schools open or workers to keep businesses going, with one local saying she had never seen as many begging notices for staff in shop windows.

Government figures show that every primary school in Whitby and the outlying villages, with the exception of two, are undersubscribed, with three of those at less than half capacity.

One of the three secondary providers, Caedmon Community College has capacity for 1539 students but with 765 on the register - it is less than half full.

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Earlier this week, residents of Whitby, voted overwhelmingly in favour of having a ban on any new build properties being allowed to be sold for use as holiday and second homes, amid fears there are not enough pupils to keep schools open or workers to keep businesses going, with one local saying she had never seen as many begging notices for staff in shop windows.

Lythe C of E, is a couple of miles north of Whitby and Sandsend and has capacity for 105 children, according to government figures, but has 56 pupils. According to records from Scarborough Borough Council, the percentage of holiday lets and second homes in Lythe is 37 per cent.

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Schools in local residential areas also have surplus places.

East Whitby Primary School is on the side of town where more traditional residential properties are, where for years the majority were council houses and were lived in for years by generations of the same family. However, it has more than 70 surplus school places.

Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby, argues new house-building is needed to fill these places and keep schools open, while Whitby Community Network, a campaign group, says that the longer housing and education needs in the town fail to be met, the less sustainable Whitby is becoming.

Joyce Stangoe, from the group, said: “Everyone knows Whitby has a housing crisis, but perhaps what is not so well known is how under utilised our schools now are, and the lack of senior/adult education now on offer.

“Certainly it (holiday lets) has got to have an effect, particularly when you look at the villages. Lythe and Sandsend, that is one of the villages most affected by second homes. Goathland is very low, that has a high rate of holiday lets and second homes.

“It is repeated all over the region and not just this area.”

Last year, St Hilda’s Roman Catholic Primary School in Whitby, a voluntary aided school run by the Diocese of Middlesbrough, closed due to a drop in pupil numbers. It originally had the capacity to take 105 children but this was reduced to 74 in 2019 as names on the register tumbled.

When closure plans were announced it had 24 pupils with only two new starters in reception class the previous year.

Mr Goodwill said he often gets letters from constituents worried about the impact that new building in Whitby will have on the town infrastructure with the likes of education and health services, however, he argues that Whitby needs it.

“The infrastructure is not a problem. We have a lot of surplus school places in Whitby, if we are trying to not justify new builds on infrastructure, it helps if you have more people and it means other businesses are supported as well.

“In some ways because you have holiday cottages you don’t have as many children in schools. We have two schools in a stand-off situation because they don’t have enough students to be economically viable and there is an issue there.”

Government figures for schools places show the capacity of Whitby primary schools and the actual number of pupils (shown in brackets).

West Cliff, 210 (231); Airy Hill, 210 (217); Stakesby, 230 (157); East Whitby, 315 (244); Ruswarp C of E, 105 (92); Hawsker C of E, 84 (54); Sleights C of E, 105 (102); Oakridge Hinderwell, 42 (41); Lythe C of E, 105 (56); Fylingdales near Robin Hood’s Bay, 112 (76); Castleton, 56 (46); Danby 70 (28); Glaisdale, 56 (34); Goathland, 49 (12); Lealholm, 56 (24); St Hedda’s Egton Bridge, 51 (31); Seton Staithes 105 (89); Egton C of E, 62 (57).

Secondary schools are also affected by lower primary numbers.

Caedmon College, an 11-19 provision has places for 1539 students but has less than half at 765. Eskdale School serves ages 11 to 16 with capacity for 510 pupils but has 483 listed.

Amanda Newbold, Assistant Director for Education and Skills at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “The local authority and schools constantly monitor school places, as schools have to ensure they respond to changing demand.”