Opponents of Great Yarmouth schools merger to march through town in protest
PUBLISHED: 13:39 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 08:39 27 September 2017
Archant Norfolk Photographic© 2008
Parents, teachers and the head of a Great Yarmouth school which could be merged with another will take to the streets this weekend in protest.
Those against Norfolk County Council’s plans to combine Alderman Swindell and North Denes Primary Schools into a new building on the North Denes site will take part in the march through the town centre on Saturday.
The proposal has proved divisive - though new facilities are welcomed by many, others say it is unnecessary and will disrupt children’s education.
The Save Alderman Swindell campaign has now organised a walk from St George’s Theatre, starting at 11am on Saturday, through the town centre.
Alison Hopley, headteacher of Alderman Swindell, will be among those taking part. She said: “There’s a lot of passion around this, and this is a way of letting people know how we feel.
“We’ll get more signatures on the petition and more people filling in the consultation as we go. We want people to look into this and know all the facts. There are problems with how it’s been handled.”
The march will finish at the school with a balloon release.
Mrs Hopley said some aspects of the plans raised concern, including the future of the Alderman Swindell site, which the council has said could be used for complex needs education.
The proposal says children would move to North Denes in September 2018, and the new school building would be built “by September 2020”.
Mrs Hopley said it risks “cramming” pupils into one school, and raises questions over whether a sale of the land is influencing the timeline. At its children’s services committee meeting earlier this month, the council said selling the land for housing was not its preferred option.
A six-week consultation has now finished, and a four-week formal consultation is ongoing. The council must make a decision on the plans within two months of the end of the four weeks.
Matt Dunkley, interim director of children’s services, previously said he believed the move would give children “the very best education both now and in the future”.
He said he understood “there will always be sadness when we propose the closure of a school”.
Mick Castle, Norfolk County Councillor for Yarmouth North and Central, said: “Although some will no doubt respect the ‘never say die’ attitude of those campaigning to prevent the merger of this school with the North Denes Primary, I have to say that it really is time now that they ended their protest in the interests of the children in North Yarmouth.
“The county council has pledged to build a £7m new build on the North Denes campus which will of course be of immense positive benefit for our community and help ensure that the new larger school of 420 pupils will have the most up-to-date premises for the future.
“The community needs now to come together and end the divisive campaign which must really unsettle the children.”
He said the Alderman Swindell building should be used for a new special school.