FOR remote Upper Dales communities, a local primary school must be an absolute gem: a real commodity which means parents and children do not have to travel far and keeps youngsters with their friends and siblings.

It also acts as a lifeblood for these communities, a kind of glue which holds them together and gives security for the future, because without children growing up and continuing to live and work there, they will surely die out to a collection of holiday homes.

Sadly, many small Dales schools are struggling to keep going, both financially and in terms of dwindling school rolls, and some have grouped together into federations in an effort to remain viable.

In Swaledale, Reeth and Gunnerside Primary Schools make this work with older students spending the day in Gunnerside and the younger ones remaining in Reeth.

A similar way of working has been in place in Wensleydale schools at Bainbridge, Askrigg and West Burton but this federation now seems to be breaking down.

While every effort has been made to ensure each school has a sustainable future, parents at West Burton now believe the federation is the very thing threatening its survival and are pushing to break free.

They say the extra travel involved will lead to fewer children being enrolled, and that independence will ensure greater community involvement.

They even believe they will see increased registrations to the school roll.

Let’s hope these ambitious plans lead to a happy future.