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Parents’ safety fears as Downham school shuts access point

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A parent has claimed children’s safety is being put at risk after they were barred from using an alternative entry point to a West Norfolk secondary school.

Officials at the Downham Market Academy say the new rule, which was implemented this week, was needed to protect its playing fields from damage.

But objectors say the measure will force pupils to walk along the busy Bexwell Road, putting them in much greater danger.

They have urged school leaders to rethink the plan and have suggested they will launch a petition against it.

Parent Anna Kent said: “Children’s safety surely must be paramount.”

The gate, which allowed access on to the school grounds from Civray Avenue, was installed after planning consent was granted in 2010.

Parents angry at decision to close back entrance to Downham Academy "to save the grass", meet at back gate to school on Civray Estate
Parents angry at decision to close back entrance to Downham Academy "to save the grass", meet at back gate to school on Civray Estate

Documents from the time suggest the move was made partly out of concerns for safety for pupils attending both the academy and the nearby Hillcrest Primary.

But the academy, which is now sponsored by the Cambridgeshire Educational Trust, announced the change in an email to parents last week.

The school said: “From Monday 11th March 2019 the back gate at Downham Market Academy will no longer be in use. This is to preserve the playing fields which are currently being damaged.

“All students will need to enter the school via the front gate at Bexwell Road.”

The school had not responded to a request for further comment at the time of going to press.

But Mrs Kent said the change was being imposed without any consultation with parents.

She says using Bexwell Road to access the main school entrance would make journeys for many students longer and a potential alternative route, Rabbit Lane, was known to be uneven and an area where incidents of bullying have been known to take place.

She said: “If it was for, like a month, you’d say it’s a bit of an inconvenience but it would be workable.

“There are young carers who go to that school. It might be really important to them.”

She is also concerned that the change may have a particular impact on her daughter Maddie, who is in year nine and suffers with hypermobility, which means she is at increased risk of dislocating her elbows, even without doing any particularly strenuous activity.

She said: “She doesn’t have to be doing anything severe.”

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