Diocese’s regret at loss of Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Primary School

Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Primary school is threatened with closure.

Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Primary school is threatened with closure. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

A diocese which shut a 150-year-old popular village primary because it was deemed too small to have a viable future has said it shares the 'pain, regret and sense of loss' felt by the community at the school's closure.

Governors came to what they called a 'difficult decision' over Eccles, Hargham and Wilby Primary School's future earlier this year after a 'continued decline in pupil numbers' left it with just 27 children.

A consultation document by Norfolk County Council said the decline, combined with changes to school funding, was 'making it increasingly difficult to manage the budget, and to bring about sustained improvement in educational outcomes for its pupils'.

But the Parents Against the Closure of Eccles School (PACES) campaign group fought against the closure, claiming its small size made it ideal for pupils with special educational needs.

The school closed at the end of term despite the parents' efforts.

Andy Mash, diocesan director of education at the Diocese of Norwich, said: 'It is always a sad day when a school closes and it is never a decision taken lightly. The pain, regret and sense of loss felt by a village or community is felt by all - and that includes the diocese, as it is even sadder when the long and proud history of a school comes to an end.'

Mr Mash said the 'mounting challenges this school has faced' had 'caused a fresh look to be cast over the school's future'.

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He added: 'This has resulted in the sad conclusion that its faithful service have come to an end.

'The Diocesan Board of Education, as well as the Church locally, has worked with the local authority in treading this difficult and emotive path with the community and the school's current pupils, staff, governors and parents. Its strong local sentimental attachment and the admirable loyalty it generates have been clear to see amongst those closest to the school.'

However Ina de Smet - a parent who had planned to send her sons Nathan, aged five, and Ruben, aged three, to the school in the future - said: 'The main effect will be on the most vulnerable families with children who have special needs, who can't afford to send their children to a school further out.

'To us, the decision does not make sense.'

What do you think about the closure? Write, giving your full contact details, to: EDP Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email EDPLetters@archant.co.uk