Wilby Primary head jumps to defence of small schools

Headteacher Philippa Coleman of Wilby Primary School is defending rural schools.''Pictured: Headteacher Phillippa with Beth Palmer, Tobias Harvey and James Last ANL-160120-155933009
Headteacher Philippa Coleman of Wilby Primary School is defending rural schools.''Pictured: Headteacher Phillippa with Beth Palmer, Tobias Harvey and James Last ANL-160120-155933009

The headteacher of Wilby Church of England Primary School has jumped to the defence of small schools as one in our area faces potential closure.

Norfolk County Council is proposing to close Brockdish Church of England Voluntary School on August 31, while Stoke Ash Primary School, and Norfolk’s Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Church of England Primary School, closed their doors in 2014.

In the face of austerity measures and small school closure, Wilby School continues to thrive, as it will, we hope for many decades to come

Philippa Coleman, Wilby Primary School Headteacher

But across the border in Suffolk, Wilby Primary School, which has served the village for more than 120 years and has 78 pupils on its roll, was found to be ‘good’ in its last Ofsted inspection early last year.

The government body said in its report: “The broad range of subjects taught, along with the school’s caring and nurturing ethos, prepares pupils well for life in modern Britain.”

Headteacher Philippa Coleman told the Diss Express: “Small schools have been frequently characterised by their creative and flexible approach to teaching and learning and at Wilby we continue to offer a curriculum and learning experience that is highly personalised and relevant to individual children.

“Despite increased financial pressure, the quality of relationships and care in our school is second to none.

“Ofsted has twice publicly stated quality of teaching to be better in ‘small and very small’ schools - and that ‘small schools offer a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum.’ This breadth of curriculum was commented upon in our most recent Ofsted report.

“The evidence at Wilby Church of England Primary School is that high quality of teaching, relationships and achievement endure as hallmarks of small rural primary schools.

“In the face of austerity measures and small school closure, Wilby School continues to thrive, as it will, we hope for many decades to come.”

Speaking generally about small schools, a spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “We do not have a policy to close small schools but we keep a close eye on key factors which might indicate risk and the fact that a school might become unsustainable over time.

“If we identify a school as being at risk we will support them to work in partnership with other local schools, through a federation or a Multi Academy trust, but if this is not “possible and a school is not sustainable in terms of the quality of education or its financial position then closure may become an option.”