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General election could scupper schools' end-of-term celebrations

PUBLISHED: 06:00 01 November 2019 | UPDATED: 07:50 01 November 2019

Catton Grove Primary School's Nativity play in 2016. The school is likely to be used as a polling station in the December general election. Picture: Millie Tan

Catton Grove Primary School's Nativity play in 2016. The school is likely to be used as a polling station in the December general election. Picture: Millie Tan

Millie Tan

Schoolchildren in Norfolk face disruption to their end-of-term celebrations due to imminent general election.

Tim Lawes, headteacher of Catton Grove Primary School. Picture: SubmittedTim Lawes, headteacher of Catton Grove Primary School. Picture: Submitted

The country is set to go to the polls on Thursday, December 12 to decide who should lead the UK into the new year and - perhaps finally - through Brexit.

But the short notice and unusual timing of the ballot has caused upset for some regular polling stations, including schools - scheduled in the final days of the autumn term, it risks disrupting Christmas lunches and Nativity plays.

Lists of polling stations in Norfolk used in the European and local elections in May include the names of five schools: Catton Grove Primary in Norwich, Tunstead Primary, Hapton Primary, Glebeland Primary in Toft Monks, and Gooderstone Primary.

Tim Lawes, headteacher at Catton Grove, said the school had acted as a polling station for many years - including three times since 2017 - but that it had recently asked the powers-that-be if alternative venues could be found in the future.

Gooderstone Primary School has previously been used as a polling station. Picture: ArchantGooderstone Primary School has previously been used as a polling station. Picture: Archant

"But what I suspect will happen is, given this has been decided at a very late stage, we will be called on to be a polling station," he said.

"Given the fact that the election will be on the 12th, that is right near the end of term and Christmas celebrations. We would have to reorganise our end-of-term programme to accommodate it.

"We are caught between a rock and a hard place. It is a bit of a pain, but we feel a duty to the community of Catton Grove."

Hapton Primary School received a letter this week to say its hall would be needed as a polling station.

Glebeland Primary School in Toft Monks, near Beccles. Picture: ArchantGlebeland Primary School in Toft Monks, near Beccles. Picture: Archant

Laura Newark, deputy head at the Saints Federation, which runs the school, said disruption would be noticeable but minimal.

"We are actually very close to the end of the term so it is not as significant as people think it may be," she said.

"Being a small village school, the hall is where our lunches and our collective worship are held. Last time we used the classrooms for lunches and collective worship instead.

"It is not going to impact us massively, but normally we would have this sort of thing in the diary and we would be fully prepared for it."

The opening of the new school at Hapton. Picture: Archant archivesThe opening of the new school at Hapton. Picture: Archant archives

An article by Schools Week estimated 60pc of primary schools across the country were affected by their use as polling stations in May's local authority elections.

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