Concerns over village school closure proposals

Caroline Clarke, acting head of Badwell Ash Primary School, The Venerable John Cox, chairman of governors, Jan Scott, senior infrastructure officer at Suffolk County Council, at a public meeting over the proposed closure of Badwell Ash Primary School

Caroline Clarke, acting head of Badwell Ash Primary School, The Venerable John Cox, chairman of governors, Jan Scott, senior infrastructure officer at Suffolk County Council, at a public meeting over the proposed closure of Badwell Ash Primary School

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Hundreds of people are campaigning to save a ‘financially unviable’ village school from potential closure.

About 350 residents have signed a petition against plans to shut down Badwell Ash Primary next September.

Governors at the school, which is the fifth smallest in the county, say they have launched a consultation on the move as there are just 32 pupils, attainment levels are not what they should be and attempts to form collaborations with other schools have failed.

A consultation document notes that in 2007 the governors found the school was ‘financially unviable with its existing staffing levels’. It adds that finances are ‘likely to become increasingly constrained in the years ahead’ under new national funding formula.

If the school closes, pupils would attend the ‘outstanding’ rated Norton Primary, whose head Stella Hart would lead Badwell Ash through its final year.

Caroline Clarke, who has been acting head since January and is also head of Bardwell Primary, said: “This is our last resort. If the situation was left to continue these children would be getting a raw deal.

“There have been three different attempts at forming a federation with other schools which haven’t been successful.

“In 2010 the school was put into special measures and since that time there have been a lot of different heads. There have been lots of changes in teaching staff and that instability hasn’t helped in terms of raising attainment.”

In an emotionally charged public meeting on Wednesday, which was organised by the governors, parents and residents voiced their concerns at the proposals.

Some argued that their children were not underachieving but Mrs Clarke said term by term data shows some pupils are ‘standing still, others are making very little progress and there are children falling behind in reading, writing and maths’.

Other parents raised the prospect of Badwell Ash forming a federation with Bardwell Primary.

The Venerable John Cox, chairman of governors, said: “The possibility of extending that collaboration has and will continue to be looked at.”

“If someone can come forward with a financially and educationally sustainable solution then great. We’re not closed to looking at possibilities.”

Before the meeting mum Helen Flack, who has launched a petition, was collecting signatures with her sister Lisa Kelly. They said: “This school is the heart of the village - take it and you’re going to kill the village.”

The consultation runs until June 21. If they decide to propose closure, governors would publish statutory notices in early July before Suffolk County Council’s cabinet makes a final decision on September 10.

Views can be sent by letter addressed to the Chair of Governors, Badwell Ash CEVAP School, The Street, Badwell Ash, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 3DG or by email to badwellashgovernors@suffolk.gov.uk