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Plans for new Catholic primary on site of school from TV documentary get go-ahead

PUBLISHED: 17:04 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 17:34 17 May 2019

Channel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham. Pictured are sister Michaela Switaj and model Gabby Ryan. Picture: Ian Burt

Channel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham. Pictured are sister Michaela Switaj and model Gabby Ryan. Picture: Ian Burt

The legacy of a 100-year-old Catholic school will live on in a Norfolk market town after approval was granted for a new school in its place.

Pupils running at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Plans for a new primary school on the site of Sacred Heart, submitted by the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, have been approved. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolPupils running at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Plans for a new primary school on the site of Sacred Heart, submitted by the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia, have been approved. Picture: Sacred Heart School

Sacred Heart School, a fee-paying school which has around 160 pupils across its nursery, lower and senior schools, has been educating children in Swaffham since 1914.

This year has seen it fight for its future, calling on the community to help raise funds to keep it open, but the push was unsuccessful and the school recently announced that it would be closing at the end of the summer term.

However, the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia has been working on plans for a new Catholic primary school, the first in Norfolk for decades, in its place - and this week it was revealed they would come to fruition after being approved by Norfolk County Council.

Pupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. The school will close in September, when it is hoped the new Catholic primary school will open in its place. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolPupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. The school will close in September, when it is hoped the new Catholic primary school will open in its place. Picture: Sacred Heart School

The new 210-place Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Voluntary Aided Primary School will open on September 1, 2019, and will also include a 25-place nursery class.

Helen Bates, assistant director for schools for the diocese, said: "This is fantastic news for current and future parents and pupils, the local Swaffham community and for Catholic education in Norfolk.

"We would like to thank everyone who supported our proposal, without which this would not have been possible. Now the hard work really starts to make sure that the school is up and running in less than four months."

Helen Bates, assistant director of the schools service at the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia. Picture: Keith MorrisHelen Bates, assistant director of the schools service at the Catholic Diocese of East Anglia. Picture: Keith Morris

Sacred Heart is run by a religious group known as the Daughters of Divine Charity. It gained fame after starring in the Channel 5 series Bad Habits, Holy Orders, which saw five party girls spend a month with the school's sisters.

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There are other Catholic primary schools in King's Lynn and Costessey.

Channel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham. Picture: Ian BurtChannel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham. Picture: Ian Burt

Sr Francis, of Sacred Heart School, said: "I am pleased that the legacy of the Sisters who arrived from Vienna in 1914 to set up a school in Swaffham will continue through the new VA Catholic primary school.

"It has been a long journey to finally have free education on the site of the Sacred Heart Convent. This is something those early Sisters who spoke halting English and had little money had anticipated but were completely unaware of our English system.

"After much praying and hard work by a gallant group from the school and diocese, parents, pupils and staff both past and present we will have secured the continuation of the Daughters of Divine Charity's ethos.

Sisters from Sacred Heart School in Swaffham, which was founded in the town in 1914. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolSisters from Sacred Heart School in Swaffham, which was founded in the town in 1914. Picture: Sacred Heart School

"May all who have given encouragement and loyalty to this venture feel proud of this achievement.

"So we rejoice and thank God but would also like to remember those staff, families and pupils who were sad that their Senior School must close."

While developing its plans for the new primary school the Catholic diocese conducted a public survey to gauge support. It received 137 responses, 90pc of which were in support of the school, and also got backing from civic leaders including Swaffham Town Council.

Further information regarding admission to the new primary school will be available from Sacred Heart School's office and on the diocese's website at www.rcdea.org.uk/sacredheartva from Monday, May 20. A website for the new school is in development.

There will be a day of thanksgiving and celebration for past staff, parents and pupils at Sacred Heart School on June 29.

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