Future of Stoke Ash school threatened with closure “bleak”

Stoke Ash, Suffolk. Stoke Ash primary school which is under threat of closure which only has three pupils at the school ENGANL00120140120121006
Stoke Ash, Suffolk. Stoke Ash primary school which is under threat of closure which only has three pupils at the school ENGANL00120140120121006

The future of a north Suffolk school facing closure will become clearer later this month.

Stoke Ash Primary School, close to the A140 near Eye, was deemed ‘Inadequate’ in an Ofsted report last year and had seen numbers drop from 21 pupils in September to just three, despite being able to accommodate as many as 70.

Suffolk County Council was expected to disclose whether it was to continue to issue a statutory notice to close the school, following the outcome of a consultation period, last Friday.

But following changes to the statutory guidance, it will now be published on March 21.

A spokesperson for the Suffolk County Council explained: “There has been recent changes to the statutory guidance and it now states that the representation period should last for four weeks and not six.

“Therefore, we will be publishing the statutory proposal to fit in with the cabinet date of June 10. As a result, the statutory proposal notices will be published on March 21, 2014.

“The representation period will run from March 21 to April 18 and the final decision on the proposal will still need to be made at Cabinet on June 10. A decision has to be made within two months of the notice and as there is no cabinet in May it would have been too late for a decision in June if we had stayed with the original outline stated in December 2013.”

It comes at a time where the Suffolk County Council has been accused of “damaging” life chances through their failings to “challenge and support schools.”

The claims come from a letter from Ofsted following an inspection of the authority in January.

Findings from the inspection concluded pupil performance at Key Stages 2 and 4 is well below the national average, the council’s strategy to support schools is weak, the council has not communicated well with school, and there is need for better and more consistent use of information by council staff to intervene quickly when schools are struggling.

Andrew Stringer, Green County county councillor for Upper Gipping , who represents the village, told the Diss Express the situation at the school looked “incredibly bleak,” and welcomed Ofsted’s findings.

“We need to be responding before we get into that (Stoke Ash proposed closure) situation. I think that is the bit that Ofsted has put their finger on.

“It does look incredibly bleak, but it does point to the fact that some of the concerned parents have moved their children away from that school. Perhaps the county council has not played enough of a role in turning the school around.”

Sean Harford, Ofsted regional director for the East of England, said: “Too few pupils in Suffolk attend a good or outstanding school, and far too many attend inadequate schools. That is unacceptable.

“It is disappointing to find that Suffolk County Council has been ineffective in the way it supports schools. The local authority has not tackled weaknesses in schools quickly enough. That just isn’t good enough when the prospects for the young people of the county are at stake.”

Councillor Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, added: “Ofsted’s report makes sobering reading, and rightly so. There are few issues of greater significance than the education our young people receive and if advice needs to be given, it ought to be heard – loud and clear.”