Tiny Norfolk school facing closure

Shaun LowthorpeMoves to close Norfolk's smallest school came a step closer yesterday after education chiefs backed a shake up to scrap the county's last remaining first and middle schools.Shaun Lowthorpe

Moves to close Norfolk's smallest school came a step closer yesterday after education chiefs backed a shake-up to scrap the county's last remaining first and middle schools.

Norfolk County Council's ruling cabinet approved starting a statutory consultation on plans to replace a clutch of schools with primary or infant and junior schools.

The changes, which if approved would come into effect in 2011, would bring the schools in line with the rest of the county where first and middle schools have been scrapped in favour of infant and primary schools.

That would see the closure of Church Hill School in Grimston, which currently has only nine pupils, as well as changes in Bacton, Mund-esley, South Wooton and Lingwood.

If formally approved, the changes would see three primary schools created in Ashwicken, Gayton and Pott Row/Grimston, while in North Norfolk there would be a primary school in Bacton and an infant and junior school in Mundesley.

In South Wooton the preferred option was for an infant and junior school, and in Lingwood a new primary school for five to 11 year olds was the favoured option.

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Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, said the council had listened to people's views and changed its view to support the popular option at Mundesley and Bacton.

And she said the Grimston cluster would be a chance to create a new school for the whole community.

"It will be a completely different school, with a new set of governors, which will encapsulate the traditions of the smaller schools," she said. "It will be a new school for the community and we hope people will look at it in that way."

But Barbara Pithers, head teacher, at Church Hill School, Grimston, said the current consultation round was flawed because an option of four primary schools was not considered.

The meeting also heard that youngsters would have to study in temporary classrooms while a new school was built for them to use.

"We are livid; the public consulta-tion document was whittled away and people weren't given the option of four primaries," she said. "The public clearly doesn't want one school for the two villages and they wanted to retain a school for their own community. You cannot transfer an ethos from one school to another, and you are not going to have the same staff and governing bodies."

The outcome of the statutory consultation will be known in March with a final decision likely next summer or autumn.

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