CLOSURE plans are ploughing ahead at Oxfordshire's smallest primary school, after pupil numbers plummeted to just 15.

Oxfordshire County Council has published an official closure proposal for Culham Parochial CE Primary School, formalising the plan to merge it with Clifton Hampden CE Primary School.

A consultation paper released on Monday stated: "The school has a significant budget deficit.

"Pupil numbers are too low to generate sufficient funding to cover the costs of staffing and maintaining the building."

The paper reveals that, from about 30 pupils on roll earlier this year, this month there are just 15 pupils still enrolled there.

READ AGAIN: Culham school looks set to close after building shuts down

Culham pupils are already being taught at Clifton Hampden as of this term, and many have bought uniform for the latter.

The school building will stand empty at least until the final decision is made.

If closure goes ahead, it will be made official in Easter or, at the latest, the end of the school year.

The council has put on a free bus for pupils this academic year, to take Culham pupils to and from Clifton Hampden, and the consultation paper reveals that the estimated cost of this transport is £45,410.

It will continue to offer the free bus to all Culham pupils already at Clifton Hampden, for the duration of their time there.

Clifton Hampden school currently has 82 pupils on roll, but the building can accommodate 105, meaning it would not have to physically expand.

Its annual admission numbers would increase from 10 to 15.

The council admitted the closure 'may deter some families from moving to Culham,' but said the village is also within the catchment for Sutton Courtenay CE Primary School, and home to the Europa bilingual school.

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More than half of state primary school pupils living in Culham attend schools other than their local primary, and most of the pupils who do go there are actually from surrounding villages or Abingdon.

Culham is ringfenced for thousands of new homes in South Oxfordshire District Council's draft Local Plan, but the consultation paper states: "This is not yet confirmed, and there is no timescale for significant local housing growth."

The struggle to attract enough pupils will likely be made worse by an Ofsted report last month, which concluded that the school 'requires improvement.'

The consultation paper adds: "The proposed merger would improve educational opportunities and standards [for] children living in this area."

An initial consultation in June and July attracted 23 responses.

One person suggested merging Culham with a school in Abingdon, or joining a multi-academy trust to improve viability.

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Culham and Clifton Hampden are already federated as part of the Thames Bridge Church of England Federation, sharing a headteacher.

The council said: "Merging Culham with a different, larger school would be impractical, and lead to more upheaval for pupils."

In response to the assertion that 'Culham's problems are short-term and can be overcome,' the council said: "The difficulties with low numbers have been no point in the last 10 years has the school been more than 80 per cent full."

A final decision is expected to be made by the council's cabinet, at a meeting on November 19.

Anyone who wishes to respond must do so by Monday, October 14, via

There will also be a public meeting at 6.30pm on Monday, at Culham Parochial CE Primary School.