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Norfolk school which featured in documentary may face closure

PUBLISHED: 15:36 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 09:29 29 November 2018

The participants of Channel 5 show Bad Habits, Holy Orders, were welcomed back at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham, where the series was filmed. Pictured are (from left) Gabby Ryan, Sarah Chelsea, sister Michaela Switaj and Tyler Lawrence. Picture: Ian Burt

The participants of Channel 5 show Bad Habits, Holy Orders, were welcomed back at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham, where the series was filmed. Pictured are (from left) Gabby Ryan, Sarah Chelsea, sister Michaela Switaj and Tyler Lawrence. Picture: Ian Burt

A school which featured in a television series and has educated pupils through two world wars is appealing for the public’s help to save it from collapse.

Pupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school may have to close its senior school. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolPupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school may have to close its senior school. Picture: Sacred Heart School

Sacred Heart School in Swaffham says it may have to close its senior school at the end of the academic year unless funding can be found to support it.

The school, run by a religious group known as the Daughters of Divine Charity, was founded in 1914 and moved to its current site in 1920. It now has 162 pupils aged from three to 16 across its nursery, lower and senior schools.

It found fame last year after starring in Channel 5 series Bad Habits, Holy Orders, which saw five party girls spend a month with the school’s sisters.

Now, with the future for its 68 senior pupils in doubt, parents and staff at the Mangate Street school are clubbing together to form a strategic plan to keep it running – but say financial help will be needed to support its operation and the work of its sisters.

Sisters from Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school may have to close its senior school. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolSisters from Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school may have to close its senior school. Picture: Sacred Heart School

The school said if every viewer of Bad Habits, Holy Orders had donated £1 towards it, £1m could have been generated “so the sisters could continue to run their school and help educate a cross-section of society”.

A member of staff said: “I personally have witnessed many children who join the Sacred Heart from other schools of all ages who have had issues of different kinds but all lack confidence. I have watched them flourish here. They have become happy, made friendships and embraced the ethos of the school.

“If these children were put into other schools with large classes and little pastoral support it would be a great injustice. Parents, although many with bursaries, have seen their children turn their lives around and become the happy child they once knew again and felt it worthwhile to give up some luxuries for their child’s wellbeing.”

A statement on the campaign in a school newsletter, signed by headmistress Sister Francis Ridler, said there had been a “phenomenal” outpouring of support and sympathy from parents. She added: “I am truly grateful for such an understanding and active group of parents.”

Pupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham as it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. Picture: ArchantPupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham as it celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014. Picture: Archant

Those wanting to make donations can give them directly to the school or via its Just Giving page.

The history of Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart School has been a fixture of Swaffham life for more than 100 years.

In 1912, the parish priest of Swaffham approached an Austrian religious group, the Daughters of Divine Charity, asking it to send a sister to found a convent in the town.

The first sisters arrived at their new home in Providence Terrace in June 1914. Another seven girls – the school’s first pupils – arrived in July, but the outbreak of the First World War overshadowed their first months in the UK.

The convent and school moved to its current site in Mangate Street in 1920. It increased in size during the Second World War and by 1955 it had 266 pupils.

In the following years its boarding facilities were extended, and the 1960s saw the construction of senior classroom, the gymnasium, dining room and kitchen, and first swimming pool.

In the early 2000s a barn adjacent to the school was purchased and turned into an arts centre, with a theatre and pottery studio.

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