Schools in Colkirk, Sculthorpe and West Raynham, near Fakenham, form North Norfolk’s first three-school partnership

Three village schools near Fakenham have formed a partnership, the first of its kind in North Norfolk.

Sculthorpe Primary School, West Raynham Primary School and Colkirk Primary School will share resources and be run by one head teacher.

This is only the fourth three-school partnership in Norfolk but, with more than 30 school partnerships in the county, the model has been predicted as the future of primary school education in the county.

Robert Lucking, chairman of governors at Colkirk Primary School, which has just formed a partnership with West Raynham Primary School and Sculthorpe Primary School, who have been in partnership since 2004, said: 'Small village primary schools can often feel isolated and they can suffer from this.

'There are more than 30 school partnerships in Norfolk at the moment and this number is increasing all the time. I think the days of single village primary schools working alone are numbered.'

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Mr Lucking said there were many benefits for the three schools in the new partnership, including long-term stability, better value for money, more efficient management and better co-ordinated learning.

He said pupils would be able to go on more outdoor field trips and enjoy an overall better learning experience.

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Mr Lucking said: 'In the past we have found it very difficult to recruit head teachers. At a small school like ours a head teacher would have to split the job of managing the organisation of the school and teaching and many heads don't want to do this.

'Also, many ambitious young teachers cut their teeth as heads of small primary schools and then move on so there is a lack of stability.

'The last time we had to recruit a head teacher it took five attempts and the best part of two years.

'So when our last head, Paul Rundle, moved on in the summer, the governing body started to look at partnership models and decided this would be the best way forward.

'We are getting an experienced head teacher who will be able to spend all of his time doing the job of a head, rather than teaching.

'This offers us better value for money, and the schools can work closely together on things like staff development. The children will have learning opportunities that they would not have otherwise had.'

An early benefit of the partnership for Colkirk Primary School is that it will be going through with �170,000 of building developments. The school will have an outdoor classroom and learning area built and the main building will be remodelled to create better teaching areas and additional office space.

Mr Lucking said: 'This would not have been possible without this partnership. This time Colkirk is benefiting but there will be many other occasions when the schools in West Raynham and Sculthorpe will reap the rewards.'

The schools will be going on a trip to Wells together to learn about pirates, in mid-February and holding a science festival, in March.

Christopher Allen, head teacher of the three schools, said: 'The last Ofsted report for Sculthorpe Primary School, done last year, rated the school as good with outstanding features and it pointed out how the school was benefiting from its partnership with West Raynham Primary School.

'In April 2008, Sculthorpe Primary School had 36 pupils and West Raynham had 44. Sculthorpe now has 57, and West Raynham, 63, so that just shows how parents are appreciating the benefits of the schools working together.'

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