A COUNTY school that survived being shut down by Herefordshire Council is now among the top 1% in the country for reading skills.

St Mary’s C of E Primary School in Dilwyn was closed because it was ‘financially unviable’ in August 2011 but volunteers rallied to reopen it within weeks, making it the county’s first free school.

The school ran for more than a year thanks to volunteers and donations.

In 2013 it was granted free school status and has seen its pupil numbers continue to grow.

This year teachers received a letter from Secretary of State for Education Nick Gibb commending the pupils’ reading exam results.

Headteacher Peter Kyles said: “We have had lots of successes, not only increasing our numbers, but we had a letter from the schools’ minister Nick Gibbs in February.

“He said, quite unexpectedly, that we were in the top 1% of schools in the country for reading on examination results. “This has caused more people to want to come to our school.”

Mr Kyles told Dilwyn Parish Council that the school now employs six local people and will be recruiting two more.

However, he also highlighted the budget squeeze the school is facing.

He said: “Issue is that the funding for the last six years has stayed the same per pupil and the cost of inflation and energy is rising.

“We are being squeezed. Not as much as state schools as our money comes directly from the department of Education.”