Fears over school's future

PUBLISHED: 18:51 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:52 03 July 2010

LET DOWN: Cobholm headteacher Julie Risby

LET DOWN: Cobholm headteacher Julie Risby

Laura Bagshaw

A PRIMARY school could be forced to close as parents remove children after education bosses failed to deliver a £2.3m building project - marking its transition from a first school.

The diagram of the Cobholm Primary School plans

A PRIMARY school could be forced to close as parents remove children after education bosses failed to deliver a £2.3m building project - marking its transition from a first school.

Cobholm Primary was described as in “turmoil” yesterday by its chairman of governors after it emerged a series of planning delays and Environment Agency objections had put the whole scheme in jeopardy.

The Environment Agency concerns relate to the fact the school is built on a flood plain.

Disappointed parents, informed by letter on Wednesday, have already started pulling their children out, moving them to nearby Southtown schools. Up to seven staff could also be made redundant.

And yesterday local MP Tony Wright accused Norfolk County Council of trying to close to school to save money, something it strenuously denied.

Governors have now been told by education bosses it is likely the school could be reverted to Infant status, meaning the September intake of year six pupils would have to leave for another school for just one year, before moving up to high school.

However, following a meeting with the Environment Agency, Mr Wright said he believed if the county council was to submit an emergency flood plan, the scheme would probably be acceptable adding “where there's a will, there's a way.”

The school, which has 148 pupils on its roll, became a primary in September 2007 after applying for the status in 2002.

Plans for new facilities including a new kitchen, hall and a classroom, were submitted in August last year in the hope of building work starting this month.

In October last year, concerns over flooding were raised by the Environment Agency and project costs are likely to escalate if the county council is to meet those requirements, meaning the plans will not be ready for September as planned.

Headteacher Julie Risby said everybody at the school was disappointed with the delays, given many teachers, parents and children had already seen images of the plans.

“Expectations have been raised,” she said. “Some parents have been waiting years since the initial announcement about the change to become a primary school. Understandably, those parents feel let down. They have become disillusioned and some are removing their children from the school because of on-going lack of facilities.”

As a primary, the school would take pupils up to the age of 11 before the move up to high school, an infant school only takes children up to the age of seven.

Chair of the governors, Dr Patricia Stuart, said the current situation had left the school in “turmoil”. She said: “In an area of expansion it seems a pity to cut the school back. The school needs the support of parents to find a way forward.”

A spokeswoman from Norfolk County Council said no decision had been made about the schools future status, and that any decision would involve public consultation.

“We recognise that this is an unsettling time for parents, staff and pupils and are doing all we can to reach a solution as quickly as possible.”

Officials from the county council are due to discuss the issue with the Environment Agency next month.

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