An independent weekly has helped keep one of the most remote rural schools in England open after launching a 2,000-strong petition.
The Teesdale Mercury has backed a ‘Fight for Forest’ campaign to avert the closure of Forest School, in County Durham.
The school, which has just 14 pupils who mostly come from hill farming families, was threatened with closure after education chiefs at Durham County Council raised questions about its viability two months ago.
A paper petition set up by the Teesdale Mercury gathered 1,338 signatures from those who believed that the school was too precious to be axed.
An additional 827 signatures and messages of support were collected online.
Durham County Council this week completed a u-turn and announced the school would not be shut.
Trevor Brookes, editor of the Barnard Castle-based Mercury, said: “Forest School may be small but its importance far outweighs pupil numbers and statistics. It helps the upper dale remain viable by attracting young families to farm the remote fells.
“If it was to close, it would spell the death of that area as a living and working dale. Children would have to travel miles along high moorland roads, which are battered by winter weather, to get to nearby schools.
“We wanted to help the community save their school and launched petitions and a campaign through the paper, online and on social media. The response was tremendous.
“There was a huge amount of hard work behind the scenes by everyone at Forest and we can’t take credit for saving it – but we certainly helped.”
Trevor praised the efforts of reporter Lyndsay Oxley, who mostly worked on the campaign.
He said: “Lyndsay knew the importance of Forest and like so many others wouldn’t let the issue drop. She put in a lot of work.”
New arrangements will see Forest School’s headteacher shared with two other small schools.