Network Norwich and Norfolk > Regional News > South Norfolk > Norwich Diocese defends church school closure

Norwich Diocese defends church school closure 

Eccles Primary school 400Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Church of England Primary School in South Norfolk closed its doors for the final time on Wednesday, but parents and a local councillor are angered by what they feel is a lack of consultation.

Andy Mash, Director of Education for the Diocese of Norwich, said:
“It is always a sad day when a school closes and it is never a decision taken lightly. The pain, regret and sense of loss felt by a village or community is felt by all; and that includes the Diocese, as it is even sadder when the long and proud history of a school comes to an end. In the case of the Church of England school at Eccles (serving that village and those of Hargham and Wilby), that amounts to over 150 years.
The Diocese is well aware of the mounting challenges this school has faced, particularly in more recent times, and of the concern held by those who hold strategic responsibility for its realistic future viability. Governors, Norfolk County Council and the Diocese of Norwich had to consider the school’s viability. The low number of pupils attending from within the school’s own catchment area, and the difficulties that fact brings with financial and educational resourcing, had caused a fresh look to be cast over the school’s future. This has resulted in the sad conclusion that its faithful service have come to an end.
The Diocesan Board of Education, as well as the Church locally, has worked with the Local Authority in treading this difficult and emotive path with the community and the school’s current pupils, staff, governors and parents. Its strong local sentimental attachment and the admirable loyalty it generates have been clear to see amongst those closest to the school.
We give thanks for the dedicated service which this school has given over the decades. The Diocese of Norwich remains committed to education and we look to continue our involvement and investment in church schools across the Diocese.”
In January this year, the school’s governors approached Norfolk County Council and the Diocese of Norwich asking for a consultation on its future. The school had just 27 pupils on its roll, and it was costing almost £9000 per year to educate each child, compared to the Norfolk average of under £4,000.
The council issued a formal proposal saying the school would be shut because: “A continued decline in pupil numbers and changes to school funding are making it increasingly difficult to manage the budget and to bring about sustained improvement in educational outcomes for its pupils.”
But parents said the school had made a “massive difference” to their children’s education, with its small setting particularly helping those with special learning needs. They formed a group called Parents Against the Closure of Eccles School and hoped to convince councillors not to allow the school to be shut.
They feel, along with a local councillor, that the school’s fate has now been sealed without proper consultation.
The proposed new catchment area for pupils living in Eccles, Hargham, Wilby and Quidenham means they will go to Kenninghall Primary School, with current pupils having to apply for places at schools elsewhere.
For more on this see : EDP24


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