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Proposal to merge Alderman Swindell and North Denes Primary Schools in Great Yarmouth takes step forward, despite opposition

Alderman Swindell Primary School. Photo: George Ryan

Alderman Swindell Primary School. Photo: George Ryan

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A proposed merger of two primary schools in Great Yarmouth - into a new, £7m facility - has taken a step forward, despite opposition to the move.

Matt Dunkley, interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Matt Dunkley, interim director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council has confirmed that its proposal, announced in June, to close Alderman Swindell School and move it into a new building on the North Denes Primary School site would move forward.

The Alderman Swindell buildings could “potentially be used to create a school for children with additional needs”, the council said.

It comes at the end of a six-week consultation with parents, residents, pupils and staff, and the council admitted that a “small majority” of those that responded were against the proposal.

Though it was welcomed by many, including North Denes headteacher Debbie Whiting, the closure of Alderman Swindell was met with opposition from parents, teachers and its headteacher Alison Hopley.

Alderman Swindell Primary School. Headteacher Alison Hopley. Picture: James BassAlderman Swindell Primary School. Headteacher Alison Hopley. Picture: James Bass

A formal four-week consultation process will now begin. The council must make a final decision on the plans within two months of the end of the four-week period.

MORE: Great Yarmouth primary faces axe under council merger to create new £6.4m facility

North Denes Primary School headteacher Debbie Whiting. Picture: James BassNorth Denes Primary School headteacher Debbie Whiting. Picture: James Bass

John Simmons, chairman of governors at Alderman Swindell, said the school was “immensely disappointed” by the outcome and that it was “not the end of the road” for the campaign to keep it open.

He said: “Whatever the outcome staff and governors are committed to building on last year’s excellent achievements, which were above the national average across the board and investing in the development of the pupils that families have chosen to send to Alderman Swindell because of our values and the care we provide.

MORE: Headteacher of closure-threatened primary school comes out fighting over planned £6.4m merger

“We stand resolutely opposed to any proposal to dispose of the site for development and urge members of the children’s services committee to offer a guarantee to the community that this is not under consideration.”

Matt Dunkley, interim director of children’s services at the council, said: “We are really ambitious for the children of Great Yarmouth and are proposing a new school, with state-of-the-art facilities, because we believe it will give them the very best education both now and in the future.

“It is clear from the informal consultation that Alderman Swindell and North Denes are both much-loved schools in the local community and we know that there will always be sadness when we propose the closure of a school. My priority will be to make a decision that is best for the children in the area.

MORE: Consultation over primary schools merger hit by ‘speculation and misinformation’, councillor says

“If we go ahead, we will also look at how we might be able to increase the number of places locally for children with special and additional educational needs because we want to give more children from Great Yarmouth the chance to be taught in their local community.”

Mick Castle, county councillor for Yarmouth North and Central, said: “Naturally I am really pleased with the news - a £7m new build school on the North Denes Primary is exactly what I was hoping for.

“It means that North Yarmouth will have a brand new school to a 21st century standard.

“Although we have been through a divisive consultation process where emotions have run high I feel sure that the community can all now pull together to secure the very best educational provision for local youngsters.”

He said the Alderman Swindell building would be “ideal” for a complex needs school.

Mr Simmons said those with questions should put them to the council ahead of its children’s services committee meeting on Tuesday, September 12 by emailing committees@norfolk.gov.uk by 5pm on Thursday, September 7.

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