Chairman of governors at a village school under threat of closure says closure is sad but realistic

Welney primary school website

Welney primary school website - Credit: Archant

Parent power has been called into action at a tiny village school which is under threat of closure because of dwindling students.

In one term last year there were just 15 children at the William Marshall VC Primary School in Welney and although the number has now gone up to 24 it has become “too difficult to run such a small school.”

Parents are meeting on Thursday evening at the village hall in a Save Our School campaign which they hope will keep the setting open. If closed their children must catch a free school bus to Upwell Primary six miles away.

Parish councillor and chairman of governors Sue Dobson said of the school, which opened in 1848: “It is sad to see such a lovely village school go under consultation but also we have to be realistic.

“An Ofsted report in 2013 put us into a category as needing improvement. Whilst we were attempting to make in-roads, when we had an audit, it was found we weren’t making significant improvements.

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“The cost per child is very high compared to larger schools and is too much to sustain. With the election looming we don’t know what funds will be available in the future.”

The school was given almost double funding for each child in a bid to keep the school open - the average cost per child per year for education in Norfolk is £4,500 but at the Thomas Marshall was increased to £8,893 but despite the extra money it was still not enough, said Mrs Dobson.

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A Norfolk County Council report has said that “standards are unacceptably low” and governors have reluctantly acknowledged they are unable to bring about the “significant improvement needed” to guarantee a good enough education for the children of Welney.

The result is a consultation of parents and parish councillors to determine the school’s future, which will close for views on May 25.

If it is agreed the school will close in August.

The school has been led for the last 11 years through a partnership with Upwell Community Primary School which sees its head teacher spend one day a week at William Marshall.

The school was opened thanks to a charitable fund set up by London lawyer, William Marshall, who fell ill during a visit to the village and set up the fund as a thank you to the people of Welney for nursing him back to health.

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