School with three pupils could close

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

A north Suffolk school which has only three pupils could be forced to close.

Stoke Ash Primary School, close to the A140 near Eye, has seen numbers drop from 21 pupils in September to just three. It can accommodate as many as 70.

The school, which has had three changes of headteacher in a little more than a year, was found to be “inadequate” by an Ofsted report published in December.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said a consultation on the future of the school was due to end next Friday, while a statutory notice could be published next month.

If it does close, nearby schools with spaces such as St Peter and St Paul Primary in Eye, Gislingham Primary School and Thorndon Primary School have been earmarked to take the remaining Stoke Ash pupils.

Ultimately, the decision to close the school, will be decided by county council cabinet.

The report said that “frequent changes to the leadership and management of the school have contributed to the failure to address the declining standards across the school.”

The school has subsequently been placed under special measures by Ofsted.

Andrew Stringer, county councillor for Upper Gipping , who represents the village, told the Diss Express he felt an “uncomplimentary” Ofsted report and a staff resignation contributed to the exodus of pupils at the school.

But he added it is a “long road” in the fight to keep the school open.

“I feel it is far too easy for pupils to change their school,” he said.

“I think if it were harder to move children, I think people would be more inclined to face the issues at community schools rather than move to another school that is performing better.

“It would be far easier to turn around the school if it had a full compliment of pupils.

“In Ofsted reports it is only taken in a snapshot of time. Things can change and improve rapidly.

“It highlights how small community schools need to link with other schools.”

Odile Wladon, a governor at the school for eleven years before leaving two years ago, told the Diss Express: “Before I left I phoned the county council to come in and sort the school out. I asked them to come in and said that some assistance was required.

“Anytime anything at the school happened, the county council response was ‘we will shut the school’. My response was ‘over my dead body’ or ‘not if I can help it’. It made me more determined to keep it open.

“I hope it does not close,” she added. “I think it is really important for children to be educated close to home, with children close to them.

A spokesperson from Stoke Ash Primary School declined to comment.

In the last Ofsted inspection in March 2011 , the school, which had 36 pupils at the time, received a “good” rating.

Ms Wladon’s four children all attended Stoke Ash Primary Schoool, with her eldest son, Cameron McKie, going on to achieve 13 A* grade GCSE’s from Hartismere School.

“My son would not have been able to achieve what he did if he had not received an excellent primary education,” she said.

“When I moved from London it was the school that sold the house for me.

I hope it does not close.

“I hope they can find a way, but apparently when placed into special measures it is very difficult.”