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Ministers to rule on West Norfolk village school merger proposal

The Government will have the decisive say on whether controversial plans to merge two West Norfolk primary schools, closing one of them, can go ahead.

Regional education chiefs have backed proposals which would see pupils currently attending the Wormegay CE Primary School transfer to a newly named Holy Cross Academy in Runcton Holme.

But there may still be some hope for opponents of the plan, after new documents showed the issue has been "escalated" to ministers for a final decision.

GV Picture of Wormegay Church of England Primary School. (44271172)
GV Picture of Wormegay Church of England Primary School. (44271172)

Papers have now been published from a meeting of the Regional Schools' Commissioner's headteacher's board, which considered the proposal last month.

They said members had considered representations on the potential impact of the closure plan and the way consultations, which have been criticised by objectors, were carried out.

But the proposal has been recommended for approval as the papers said the board "regrettably saw no other option."

They added: "The Board noted that the Ofsted recommendations of both schools were similar and had similar viability issues so [it] made logical sense to merge the two."

Bosses of the schools' sponsor, the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust (DEMAT) have consistently claimed the merger is necessary because of falling pupil numbers at Wormegay.

They predict there could be as few as six pupils enrolled there in just two years' time and say additional funding has already been needed to keep the school going.

A public consultation commissioned by the trust also indicated a majority of respondents supported the proposal.

But critics blame DEMAT for the Wormegay school's problems and say they haven't done enough to attract more families to send their children to the school.

Objectors have also argued that the timing of the consultation process during the coronavirus crisis was unfair, with some parents warning they will send their children to other schools if the merger goes ahead.

And a governor resigned in protest at the proposal, accusing DEMAT of behaving "callously" towards the Wormegay school community.

It is not yet clear when a final decision is likely to be reached, although DEMAT has previously suggested the merger could be completed by the autumn if it is finally given the go-ahead.

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