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Norfolk schools cluster to hold special meeting in wake of pupil poverty revelations

PUBLISHED: 06:00 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:46 22 March 2019

A meeting for supporters of the Cromer schools cluster hopes to identify ways they can help support families in the community following revelations about pupil poverty in Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

A meeting for supporters of the Cromer schools cluster hopes to identify ways they can help support families in the community following revelations about pupil poverty in Norfolk. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images

PA Archive/PA Images

A schools community in north Norfolk is devising a plan of action to help disadvantaged children following revelations of the extent of pupil poverty in the county.

Revd Sharon Willimott, superintendent of the North Norfolk Methodist Circuit, has instigated the meeting for members and supporters of the Cromer schools cluster to talk about pupil poverty. 

Picture: ARCHANTRevd Sharon Willimott, superintendent of the North Norfolk Methodist Circuit, has instigated the meeting for members and supporters of the Cromer schools cluster to talk about pupil poverty. Picture: ARCHANT

The special meeting has been called for the Cromer cluster of eight schools and nurseries to discuss what practical support could be offered to local families.

It follows a report in the Eastern Daily Press which found schools were laundering children’s uniforms and cutting their hair to support families hit hard by welfare cuts.

The schools cluster includes Cromer Academy, Sidestrand Hall, Cromer Junior, Gresham Village School and Nursery, Northrepps Primary, Overstrand The Belfry Primary, St Mary’s Endowed Primary and Suffield Park Infant and Nursery.

The Rev Sharon Willimott, superintendent for North Norfolk Methodist Circuit, instigated the meeting following discussions with Will Campbell, a parent support advisor in Cromer.

Revd Sharon Willimott, superintendent for North Norfolk Methodist Circuit, helping Community Matters Cafe volunteers in the church kitchen. The church community is looking to do more to support families in need at schools in the Cromer cluster. Picture: KAREN BETHELLRevd Sharon Willimott, superintendent for North Norfolk Methodist Circuit, helping Community Matters Cafe volunteers in the church kitchen. The church community is looking to do more to support families in need at schools in the Cromer cluster. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

In an email to leaders in the cluster she said: “Perhaps now is the time for the churches and other supporters to come together to offer a more coordinated response.”

Cromer Methodist Church already holds a community clothing bank which provides clothes for children and adults, and has washing and drying facilities available for the public to use.

Its Community Matters café operates two days a week and has dished up an estimated 15,000 meals in the six years it has been running.

Mrs Willimott said: “Will [Campbell] came to me because he felt the problems that families are sharing with him are on the increase.

“I thought we could be more proactive and ask what we could offer as a group to the whole school cluster so they do not have to wait when a crisis arises – it is about being prepared.

“We have the Community Matters café and we do washing and things like that, but it seems like it needs to be a more coordinated response if there is a trend growing among families which it putting more pressure on schools when their resources are already stretched.

“It’s about asking what we can do to plug some of those gaps.”

The meeting for the Cromer schools cluster will take place at Cromer Methodist Church on Wednesday, April 3 at 7pm and is open to all.

‘Just about managing’ families at highest risk

Children of “just about managing” families could be at the greatest risk of pupil poverty, a senior Norfolk academy trust figure has claimed.

Paul Shanks, director of education at Eastern Multi-Academy Trust, based in King’s Lynn, said children from “just about managing” families may not qualify for the pupil premium – which gives additional support for children from poorer families – putting extra financial pressure on parents or carers.

Nicknamed Jams, such families were a priority for Theresa May after she became prime minister in 2017 but have since dropped down the political agenda.

Mr Shanks said: “Schools and academies are crucial in the first line of support for these families and frequently have to provide support through uniform, sports kit and food that is outside the scope of the pupil premium.”

He added: “Many of our schools (and others) provide additional items for children, both disadvantaged and otherwise, on a daily basis.”

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