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Councillor brands proposal to close village primary school ‘absolutely short-sighted’

Parents and pupils and Winterton Primary School and Nursery are angry at the proposed closure. Left to right, Alexander Bird, 7, Sophie Hudson-Jones,5, and Oliver Hudson-Jones, 7.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Parents and pupils and Winterton Primary School and Nursery are angry at the proposed closure. Left to right, Alexander Bird, 7, Sophie Hudson-Jones,5, and Oliver Hudson-Jones, 7. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2018

Norfolk County Council is consulting on closing Winterton Primary School, after the idea was put forward by the school’s interim executive board. The school has been without a permanent headteacher since the end of 2016, and has a dwindling pupil roll.

Parents and pupils and Winterton Primary School and Nursery are angry at the proposed closure.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYParents and pupils and Winterton Primary School and Nursery are angry at the proposed closure. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

It was debated at children’s services committee on Tuesday, when councillor Mike Smith-Clare described it as “absolutely short-sighted”.

He said more than 300 new homes were to be built in the wider Great Yarmouth area, bringing in extra families - a concern shared by councillor Barry Stone.

Mr Smith-Clare, Labour councillor for Yarmouth Nelson and Southtown, said: “It seems absolutely short-sighted to lose a school and expect that pick-up to then be based on the fabric of schools that are further field.”

MORE: Closure of struggling primary to be considered

Council officers said data showed there was space nearby, either in Hemsby - another proposal suggests expanding the area’s catchment to include Winterton - or elsewhere.

Labour councillor for Magdalen Colleen Walker said the council should learn from the recent decision to close Alderman Swindell Primary in Great Yarmouth, which she said had left “bad feeling” in the community.

Conservative councillor Ron Hanton, who represents East Flegg, agreed it seemed short-sighted, and urged officers to “give the community a chance”.

Sara Tough, director for children’s services, said she would have the “unenviable” final say and that it would not be taken lightly.

“No-one in this room, both councillors and officers, would choose to be in this position and I can assure you that none of my officers would ever want to make a decision that disrupts a community, upsets children and young people,” she said.

Mick Castle, Independent councillor for Great Yarmouth North and Central, said it was often difficult, in smaller schools, to provide the full curriculum that other, larger, schools were able to.

Earlier in the meeting, Ayeshia Hammond Young, on behalf of the Save Winterton Primary campaign, asked if the proposed closure date could be pushed back to August 2019.

MORE: Five other things we learnt at children’s services committee

But Chris Snudden, assistant director for children’s services, said, while they recognised it was a “challenging time”, they had explored “every option possible”, including working with nearby academy trusts and federations. She said they were “deeply concerned” about the school’s education quality and lack of leadership.

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