Blueprint for small Norfolk schools is ‘a sophisticated strategy’

Mileham Primary School - a small school currently threatened with closure. Picture: Ian Burt

Mileham Primary School - a small school currently threatened with closure. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A strategy that could re-shape Norfolk's educational landscape by encouraging small schools to form larger groupings has not been watered down, council leaders have said.

Norfolk County Council has been increasingly concerned that small schools on average have worse results, and face problems recruiting and retaining strong teachers and leaders.

In November, a report to the Children's Services Committee called for individual school sites to have at least 105 pupils, groups of schools to have a combined total of 400-600 children, stand-alone schools to have at least 210 pupils, and for infant and junior schools to be replaced by all-through primary schools.

However, a number of councillors expressed concerns the changes could be imposed upon schools, and the paper was withdrawn before being discussed.

A replacement has now been tabled for tomorrow's committee meeting, which does not call for individual school sites to have at least 105 pupils.

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Assistant director of children's services Gordon Boyd described it as a more sophisticated strategy, and said: 'The idea that we are compelling schools is not the case, and never was the case. Unless you had some major wholesale school organisation review that would cost millions of pounds, this is all by influence, with the small exceptions where we are formally intervening.'

It renews calls to develop and support executive leadership models, promote school groupings with at least 60 children per year group so they are big enough to secure strong and sustainable leadership, move to all-through primaries where possible, and favours schools where no more than two age groups are together in one class.

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Chrissie Smith, joint division secretary for the National Union of Teachers in Norfolk, said five schools had approached her with worries about how small schools are being treated.

She said: 'It's about the money. There's a big push to federate schools so they have 400 pupils or more. When you have really small schools around the county, that just does not work.'

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