SOS: Village action group step up fight to save West Norfolk school

Ryan Coogan, left, and Colin Wills are among those trying to save Ten Mile Bank School from closure. ANL-161123-112420001

Ryan Coogan, left, and Colin Wills are among those trying to save Ten Mile Bank School from closure. ANL-161123-112420001

Questions were asked of a multi-academy trust who are proposing to close a school in West Norfolk at a public consultation meeting on Tuesday.

Parents and other concerned members of the community met with Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT) officials to discuss the proposals for Ten Mile Bank Primary School at the meeting this week.

Although none of the 30-plus pupils at the school were present at the meeting, one nine-year-old was keen for her voice to be heard and wrote down some of her own questions.

In a letter, Annabelle Greening said: “SOS = Save Our School. 1) Why does DEMAT want to close Ten Mile Bank? 2) What does DEMAT think of the school? 3) Would people at DEMAT come and talk to the children of TMB? 4) Would DEMAT close the other school which we might go to?

“I personally don’t think closing the school affects my parents but it certainly affects ME. In a way, DEMAT does not know how this affects ME. The school means everything to ME.

“Without it, I wouldn’t be the same. DEMAT don’t close our school!”

DEMAT’s CEO Andrew Read was at the meeting on Tuesday to “consult the local community on a proposal to educate all local children within a single primary school (Hilgay Riverside Academy)”.

Parents were first alerted to the proposals to close Ten Mile Bank earlier in the month and ever since they have been fighting the decision and have set up an action group to keep the century-old school open.

The group was created by parent Ryan Coogan and is supported by a large number of people in the community, including Colin Wills, who has had three generations of his family taught at the school.

Members of the group have questioned the reasons for the proposed closure of the school, and have asked if the non-religious status of Ten Mile Bank has anything to do with it, which DEMAT strongly denies.

In an open letter, another member of the group, parent Mike Higgins, said: “The school has over 100 years of history within the community of providing education. I should clarify that the school is in no way a failing school, it has a good Ofsted report and a reputation for high levels of education.

“The school has survived many challenges over the years, including low student numbers (which it currently doesn’t suffer from) and even survived two World Wars, however DEMAT have held management of the school for less than a year and already are moving to close the school.

“I do not wish for my child to attend a faith school, therefore as there are no other non-faith schools in the area, DEMAT are therefore altering the catchment area for my child.”

In a Q&A paper on DEMAT’s website, it is said that the school, which has more than 30 pupils, has been kept under review for closure due to low numbers for many years prior to being converted to an academy.

It goes on to state that the small pupil roll makes it “difficult to provide the quality and breadth of provision that Ofsted now expects in order to achieve a ‘good’ outcome, and for children to achieve the age -related expectations.”

CEO Andrew Read said, prior to the consultation, that a decision has not yet been made, and that the final decision rests with the Department for Education.

He further said: “While I appreciate that this proposal may be concerning, we want to project, and strengthen, provision for the local area as a whole.”

Following the meeting on Tuesday, a four-week consultation is now open and views on the proposal can be submitted to DEMAT.

Representations can be made to rachel.beeson@elydiocese.org. The consultation period ends on December 20.