Council bosses are to hand an academy £400,000 to build extra classrooms, so Norfolk children are not forced to face daily 40-mile bus trips to school.

Norfolk County Council has agreed to provide a grant because a lack of spaces at Downham Market Academy means some children could have to travel 20 miles away to Iceni Academy in Methwold.

Eastern Daily Press: Downham MarketDownham Market (Image: Mike Page)

County Hall has a statutory duty to provide enough school spaces, but is struggling to ensure secondary school-age children in Downham Market can go to their local school - one of the biggest in the county - after they turn 11.

Eastern Daily Press: Downham Market AcademyDownham Market Academy (Image: Archant 2017)

The 1,500-pupil Downham Market Academy, based in Bexwell Road, is due to have an extension built in 2025, so it can accommodate up to 300 pupils in each year.

But, as it stands, the school has a published admissions number for year 7 pupils of 240 - with a higher number than that having applied to attend.

Penny Carpenter, the council's cabinet member for children's services, has agreed the council will provide £400,000 to the Eastern Learning Alliance, the academy trust which runs the school, so a further 30 children can go there for each of the next two years.

Eastern Daily Press: Penny Carpenter, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's servicesPenny Carpenter, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services (Image: Norfolk County Council)

That money, being given at a time when the council is about to make £52m of cuts and savings, will be used to provide extra temporary classrooms.

That will mean the school can take in 270 pupils for each of the next two years, ahead of the permanent expansion.

Had that not happened, County Hall would have had to pick up the transport bill for pupils unable to attend the school - at an estimated £400,000 cost over two years.

READ MORE: Norfolk County Council plea at rising school transport costs

But even with the extra spaces, some children could still miss out.

A county council spokesman said: "Officers are doing all they can, however we know, as in previous years, there will be some families who will not receive their first preference.

"Those children not able to receive their first preference will be offered places in their next nearest school from the surrounding area.

"Support for travel for eligible children may be offered as part of the process in order to ensure all children get a school place."