Norfolk head teachers hope county council museum proposals won’t affect their access

Headteachers said they hoped proposed changes to the way Norfolk's museums are run would not affect youngsters' access to the county's important historical artefacts.

Consultants acting on behalf of Norfolk County Council, which jointly runs the museums with district councils, have suggested a charitable trust should take over in order to safeguard the service and shield it from cuts.

A number of concerns about the proposals have already been raised with some worried the move would place the management of the museums into the hands of a group of unelected and unaccountable individuals.

But the council has stressed the idea is at a very early stage and any decision would aim to preserve the buildings and collections.

Last night Norfolk headteachers said it was too soon to know how the proposals, if brought into effect, would affect the county's schools but said they hoped it would not impact on their access to them.

Penny Bignell, headteacher at Cromer Academy, formerly Cromer High School, said she had two main concerns.

She said: 'We value the contributions museums give enhancing students learning experiences. Our students have gained from visits to a range of local museums to support our curriculum.

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'The concern will be a possible increase in admission prices and cutting of excellent educational programmes which will mean students may not benefit in the future.'

Tony Hull, headteacher at Costessey Junior School, near Norwich, said his pupils often visited both Norwich Castle and Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse.

But he said if current arrangements – including cheaper group rates for the youngsters and access to education officers – were to be lost, he would have to reconsider the frequency of those trips.

The headteacher said: 'That's what we would be worried about. We would look at how we use the provision if those things weren't there. We like what's there right now.'

Norfolk County Council said the report by legal firm Winckworth Sherwood, which came up with the suggestion, was commissioned as a way of ensuring 'we do everything we can to maintain our vibrant and much-loved museums service, and give it every opportunity to grow and prosper in the future' despite the difficult financial climate.

James Carswell, cabinet member for cultural services, stressed no decision had yet been made and the report would be discussed by the joint museums committee next week.

He added: 'All of us in Norfolk value our heritage, the much-loved historic buildings and the collections they house, which is why our visitor figures and schools attendance are amongst the highest for all county museum services in England.'

He said now was the time to 'pull together' to find a solution that would serve Norfolk people today and in the future.