A TINY village school which teaches just 37 children is under serious threat of closure.

Oxfordshire County Council is considering closing Culham Parochial CE Primary School near Abingdon, and merging it with a partnered school almost three miles away.

Villagers successfully fought to save the school when it was at risk of closure in 2010, but its size and an Ofsted rating of 'requires improvement' have increased its vulnerability.

Consultation documents released by the council state: "Culham is now the smallest primary school in Oxfordshire, with pupil numbers falling to around 30 on roll.

"Because of Culham Parochial's small size, it is more difficult for the school to provide a broad and balanced curriculum, and to balance its budget."

The school opened in 1850 and is part of the Thames Bridge Church of England Federation, which also oversees Clifton Hampden CE Primary School.

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Both schools already share a headteacher and governing body, and Culham pupils sometimes use facilities at the neighbouring school.

The council is considering fully merging the two schools, by closing Culham and expanding pupil numbers at Clifton Hampden.

Its consultation papers add: "The Thames Bridge Church of England Federation would be able to concentrate resources in one school rather than spread them across the two separate schools.

"It is important to stress at this stage that no decisions have been taken."

On Monday the Oxford Mail revealed concerns that small rural primary schools are at risk of closure, as they struggle to fill their classes.

Culham was rated 'requires improvement in 2017' and a new Ofsted report was published for the school yesterday, which also awarded the same rating despite highlighting many positives.

It said: "The school is definitely improving.

"The executive headteacher [Lisa Horton] has skilfully brought everyone together as a team with a shared vision for success.

"The school is a happy, friendly and welcoming community...Pupils are proud of their school, saying it is 'fantastic, amazing, and cool.'"

Ofsted said the school had 37 children on roll during the inspection in May.

Although three categories were rated 'good,' including that of leadership, quality of teaching and pupil outcomes led to the overall 'requires improvement' judgement.

Clifton Hampden school is currently rated 'good' and teaches about 80 pupils.

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The area could see a significant rise in demand for school places, as South Oxfordshire District Council's draft Local Plan allocates 3,500 new homes in Culham.

However, the consultation states: "While the draft Local Plan proposes large-scale housing developments in the surrounding area, this is not yet confirmed, and there is no timescale for significant local housing growth."

A statement from Culham school's leaders and governors said: "The Thames Bridge Church of England Federation is committed to providing the best possible education for local children.

"The Ofsted inspection highlighted how education at Culham Parochial is improving, and the many strengths of the school, but the small size of the school is a continuing challenge.

"That’s why we are working with Oxfordshire County Council to explore whether the Culham and Clifton Hampden schools should now be fully merged, to further improve the educational opportunities available to our children

"The recent Ofsted at Culham highlights that leadership and management is a strength, therefore we are confident that the decisions that are being made are in the best interests of all the children."

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Government guidelines outline a presumption against the closure of rural schools, so the council would have to make a strong case.

If it decides to publish a closure proposal, this is expected to happen in September.

This final decision would be made by its cabinet at some point before January 2020, when parents will have to submit applications for their child's primary school place starting in September that year.

Consultation ends at 11.59pm on Monday, July 22, and people can comment by visiting oxfordshire.gov.uk/culhamconsultation.