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Parent consultation over proposal to close mid-Norfolk primary school comes to a close

St Andrew's Primary Academy, on South Pickenham Road in North Pickenham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

St Andrew's Primary Academy, on South Pickenham Road in North Pickenham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

A consultation with parents over a proposal to close a mid-Norfolk primary academy has come to a close.

Mary Jane Edwards, chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT). Picture: DNEAT Mary Jane Edwards, chief executive of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT). Picture: DNEAT

The Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust (DNEAT) last week finished the consultation with families at St Andrew’s Primary Academy, in North Pickenham.

In a letter to parents when it was announced, Mary Jane Edwards, DNEAT chief executive, said she understood the news “may come as a shock”.

She said the school had seen falling pupil numbers over the last decade, with it currently having less than half its intended pupils, and that roll number was expected to fall further.

“Unfortunately, as a consequence of these low pupil numbers, there is an impact on the quality of education that we can offer,” she said. “To even talk about the possibility of closing a village school is an enormous step and the trustees and I have considered at length the future viability of the school and therefore the trust’s ability to provide the best start for children.”

She said nothing had been decided, and any final decision would be made by the Department for Education.

Now the consultation with parents has closed, the academy trust’s board will decide whether to take the proposal forward and, if so, prepare a business case to submit to the regional schools commissioner.

If the closure goes ahead, the school could be shut in August.

Proposal documents show that pupil numbers at the school have fallen from 68 in 2008 to 30 this year, with a predicted roll number of 20 by 2021/22.

Under the plans, the catchment area of Swaffham Junior Academy, another DNEAT school, would be extended to encompass Pickenham.

In the letter to parents, Mrs Edwards said: “Please let me assure you that no matter what happens we want the best education for your child/children and we will do everything we can to make sure that there is as little disruption as possible.”

Norfolk’s rural landscape means it is home to many small schools, some of which attract year groups with just a handful of pupils.

Norfolk County Council, which oversees schools which are not academies, has said that 105 pupils should be the minimum for a mainstream school, but that it would “as far as possible” uphold a national presumption against the closure of rural schools.

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