Wormegay school closure plan 'more sustainable option', virtual public meeting told
Plans to merge two West Norfolk village schools, shutting one of them, would provide a sustainable future for education in the area, officials claimed last night.
Dozens of people attended a virtual public meeting as part of consultations on the proposed closure of the Wormegay CE Primary School, which would see pupils transfer to Runcton Holme.
Objectors claimed the process, which has already seen a governor resign in protest, was unfair and called for it to be halted until after the coronavirus pandemic.
But Adrian Ball, chief executive of the Diocese of Ely Multi-Academy Trust which runs both schools, said falling pupil numbers at Wormegay meant it required top-up funding in order to keep it open.
The meeting was told that the Wormegay school was being run at a financial deficit and Mr Ball warned the present situation was "untenable".
He added: "By bringing the two schools together, it does provide a more sustainable method of keeping education alive within the villages."
However, parent Kelly Jones claimed pupils did not want to move to Runcton Holme.
She said: "The trust has gone and the children are devastated."
Another member of the public asked why the proposal could not be put on hold for a couple of years.
She argued the consultation process was not inclusive, because many could not attend a virtual meeting that would be able to get along to a physical one.
She said: "It seems to me that this is a done deal, that it doesn’t matter what we say, it’s going to happen regardless."
And West Norfolk Council leader Brian Long questioned whether the expected development of thousands of new homes around nearby West Winch and North Runcton may mean more pupils could attend the Wormegay school in future.
But Mr Ball said current projections for Wormegay pupil numbers, which the trust says could be as low as six in just two years' time, meant they had to act now.
He said: "Of course it’s not a good time, we understand that. But we found ourselves at the point where we had to make a decision."
Headteacher Emma Zeil also denied a suggestion put forward on behalf of a pupil that the plan went against the Christian values taught at the schools, insisting the ethos would not change if the plan does proceed.
She said: "We do believe this is about creating a new school. It’s not about bringing the Wormegay children into Runcton Holme but bringing the Wormegay children and Runcton Holme children together in a new school."
Runcton Holme teacher Jessica Emmerson also pledged: "We will do the very utmost for every single child to make sure any transition is as easy as it can be. We will be with them and with you every step of the way."
The consultation continues until March 5. Responses can be emailed to Consultation@demat.org.uk, while an online survey which can be accessed via the Wormegay school website. Paper copies of the consultation form can also be sent to the Runcton Holme school.