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Plans to close Great Yarmouth primary and merge it with another will go ahead

PUBLISHED: 12:49 20 October 2017 | UPDATED: 17:07 23 October 2017

Alderman Swindell School.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Alderman Swindell School. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

A Great Yarmouth primary school will close next August, it has been confirmed.

Proposals to close Alderman Swindell Primary and merge it with North Denes Primary are to go ahead, Norfolk County Council said on Friday.

The current North Denes site would be replaced with a new £7m building, which the council says will provide a 420-place school “fit for 21st century learning”.

Two consultation periods have now come to a close, and Matt Dunkley, interim director of children’s services, has said the council will move ahead with the proposal.

It has sparked debate in the community, with Alderman parents and headteacher Alison Hopley objecting to the plans.

It has seen a petition set up and a protest march organised through the town centre.

MORE: Proposal to merge schools in Great Yarmouth takes step forward, despite opposition

Mr Dunkley said: “We are ambitious for children in North Yarmouth and believe that they deserve a good education in 21st century facilities – a new school gives us the best chance of achieving this.

“I have considered the representations made during the consultation and I am very aware of the passion and support for keeping Alderman Swindell. However, I have to look at this purely from an educational perspective, to do what is best for children both now and in the long term.

“My experience of school organisation has shown that where children are provided with a substantially better building, their education improves.”

But Save Our School, the campaign to keep the schools separate, said on Twitter the community would “continue to fight for a justified outcome for the children in this area”.

They said the timing of the announcement - when parents and children are beginning half term - was “underhand”.

“We will carry on,” they said. “We will be heard.”

The council said all Alderman children will be offered a place at North Denes from next September. The new building will be separate from the current ones, they said.

The council is considering plans to develop a special school on the Alderman Swindell site.

Mick Castle, county councillor for Yarmouth north and central, said: “Thank goodness we now at last have a clear decision about the merger of the North Denes and Alderman Swindell Primary Schools.

“The latter will close on August 31 next year but, once vacated, these premises should be put to good ongoing educational use to house a badly-needed new special school to serve local children with needs that can’t be met in our mainstream schools.”

He said he had taken a lot of “uncalled for abuse/criticism” but he had never lost his faith in the project.

Stuart Dark, vice chairman of the children’s services committee, said on behalf of the Conservative group: “We are pleased to support the director of children’s services decision to go forward with the plan to build the first new school in Great Yarmouth for 35 years.

“This £7m purpose built all through new school will bring local education facilities into the 21st century, giving both children and teachers the best possible environment in which to thrive.

“Whilst we note there has been concern expressed regarding the closure of Alderman Swindell School the new school is only 0.485 of a mile away (roughly four football pitches) on the nearest site capable of sustaining it.”

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