WHEN is a small school too small? Apparently when there are twelve pupils or so.

That’s the number that sounded the death knell for Horton in Ribblesdale primary - news that will have sent a shiver through many rural communities.

But the good news is that education bosses from North Yorkshire County Council who made the decision to close the school from July, held out the carrot that many small schools are high achievers.

There are nearly 50 schools in the county with less than 50 pupils which are doing well.

Research shows that small schools of between 35 and 60 pupils perform better at key stage two than the county average. On the other hand very small schools with fewer than six pupils at Key Stage two perform five per cent below the county average.

So in the event, for small schools it’s all down to the maths and unfortunately for Horton the sums don’t add up, with a forecast deficit of £65,710 by 2018/19 and, amid huge concerns over the ability to offer an all round education, the plug was pulled.

And it’s a hard lesson for many.

While the Yorkshire Dales National Park planners are battling to create more affordable homes for young families the loss of the village school can be a game changer on whether to stay or go. The old chicken-and-egg adage comes to mind.

The good news is the area now comes under the auspices of Austwick school, judged outstanding by Ofsted - but then Horton was judged to be the same by the inspectors in 2010 when it had 36 pupils. It just goes to show hanging onto your chickens and your young people is a crucial factor for many villages.