Public meeting on possible Brockdish Primary School closure raises concerns

Brockdish Primary School.
Brockdish Primary School.

Governors at a small south Norfolk school possibly earmarked for closure say they see no way to keep it open, amid concerns from some parents and local residents.

Around 30 people gathered on Monday night to voice their views about a proposal to shut Brockdish Church of England Primary School, one of the UK’s smallest schools with just 12 pupils enrolled at the start of the academic year.

There is an importance for this school within the community and we don’t want to lose it. Once it goes, we won’t get it back

Reverend Nigel Tufnell

The proposal by Norfolk County Council (NCC) and the Diocese of Norwich says the school, which has been open for 182 years, had already explored federation, pre-schooling and cluster collaboration, and was unsuccessful.

Reverend Nigel Tufnell, a school governor as well as the parish priest, stated he would be “very sad” to see the school close, but the circumstances were against them, explaining the ‘Requires Improvement’ rating from Ofsted in 2013 had made things more difficult.

“There is an importance for this school within the community and we don’t want to lose it. Once it goes, we won’t get it back,” Rev Tufnell said.

“I don’t want this school to close, but I can’t see how we can do anything different. If we as governors could see another way through, we wouldn’t be here.”

But many at Monday’s meeting were worried if nearby schools could take on more pupils, with parish council chair Christine Mackenzie expressing concern about pressure on Harleston Primary School — the new catchment school for children currently in the Brockdish catchment.

One villager also asked if the county council knew why 37 children eligible to attend Brockdish Primary were choosing to go elsewhere.

Chris Hey, head of planning and organisation at NCC’s Children’s Services department, replied: “There are a lot of forces at work that influence patterns of preference.

“I think working patterns of parents have changed. They travel to market towns often and they take their children with them. Some people make these choices as consumers.”

Councillors also promised to elaborate in the future on transport provisions to other schools, and what happens to the building if it is closed.

However, one mother told the meeting she was concerned her child would not be taught to the same standards in a large class as she was at a small school like Brockdish.

“I specifically chose this school because I like the idea of having smaller classes. My daughter is a live-wire. There are great teachers at this school who have really calmed her down,” she said.

The proposal consultation ends February 29. To give your views, please go to https://norfolk.citizenspace.com/childrens-services/brockdish-ce-vc-primary-school