Tears flow as bell rings for the final time at tiny Norfolk primary school

The final day of Mileham Primary School, which is closing - Teacher John Spooner and Teaching Assist

The final day of Mileham Primary School, which is closing - Teacher John Spooner and Teaching Assistant Julie Long with some of the school pupils. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Tears welled up as they lined up, one by one to ring the bell for the final time.

Parents and governors fought in vain to save Mileham Primary School, which had just 22 pupils.

After staff and children took their turn at ringing the bell, the Rev Robert Marsden, Rector of Mileham, said: 'As we go from here today, we take new beginnings with us, we hold in our hearts and minds all the memories from this school.'

After an emotional three cheers for the school, Mr Marsden added: 'We've kept today very positive for the children but it's a sad day for the community. Decisions were taken without concern for the community, decisions were taken before all the consultations took place.

'We fought very hard for a wonderful school, a family school, a real community school.'

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Temporary head David Simington and staff members declined to comment on the closure.

Garry Sinclair, chairman of governors, said: 'My children, my wife, her family all came to school here. It's very moving.

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'The amount of community support with everything has been wonderful, absolutely brilliant.

'A lot of the children were quite upset when they initially heard, there was a lot of crying, a lot of tears, but children are resilient and the transfers to the new schools have been quite good.'

Mr Sinclair's daughter Rhianna, aged eight, said she was sad at the closure. She said children would be joining different schools in the autumn, adding: 'We are not losing contact with any of them.'

At its last inspection, in March 2013, teaching, leadership and achievement at Mileham Primary were rated as needing improvement by education watchdog Ofsted.

Governors submitted proposals to keep the school open for a year in which to turn around its fortunes.

But Norfolk County Council said Mileham Primary School was under-performing and the cost of keeping it open was too high. Pupils will relocate to nearby schools in Litcham, Brisley and North Pickenham. The fate of the Victorian buildings remains undecided.

A spokesman said: 'The county council recognises the closure of a school is hard for any community, and appreciates the time and effort put in by the governors and others to come up with alternatives to closure.

'Their submission was given careful consideration, but the director of children's services remained concerned that this would not achieve the rapid development needed, or sustain higher achievement by pupils in the longer term.

'The council believes that amalgamation with Litcham is in the best interests of Mileham's children.'

A school has operated in Mileham since the 1670s, when a free school opened to educate farm workers' children.

Are you fighting to save your village school from closure? Email chris.bishop@archant.co.uk.

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