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Norfolk school building opened by Margaret Thatcher closes

PUBLISHED: 08:20 24 July 2020 | UPDATED: 09:03 25 July 2020

Margaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter Steward

Margaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter Steward

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It was with mixed feelings that staff said farewell to a Norfolk school building at the end of a summer term disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Heradteacher Angela Jermy Picture: Peter StewardHeradteacher Angela Jermy Picture: Peter Steward

Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School has been on its “iconic site” in Firs Road since 1974, but is now moving to a new purpose-built building on the new Hethersett North development.

It will be the end of an era for a building which was opened in January 1974 by Margaret Thatcher who, at the time, was Minister for Education.

Mrs Thatcher, who went on to become prime minister, commented on the unusual shape of the school which has individual classrooms leading off from a central hall which over the years has been used for assemblies, Christmas and Easter entertainments, school sales and many social events.

A separate nursery building was added at a later date.

Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School has been on its “iconic site” in Firs Road since 1974, but is now moving to a new purpose-built building on the new Hethersett North development. Picture: Peter StewardHethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School has been on its “iconic site” in Firs Road since 1974, but is now moving to a new purpose-built building on the new Hethersett North development. Picture: Peter Steward

The opening ceremony on January 11, 1974, took place in front of many county dignitaries including the Dean of Norwich.

Sadly, due to the 2020 pandemic, staff and pupils were not able to say a proper farewell to the school with the last children leaving the building for the final time on July 17. Throughout the pandemic the school continued to have up to 120 pupils each day.

Headteacher Angela Jermy admitted that she would miss the building with its unique design and said: “If we could have built onto it we would but we have simply outgrown the building.”

Mrs Jermy is due to pick up the keys for the new two storey school building on 5th August with equipment and furniture moving in later in the month ahead of the expected return of children on September 7.

Margaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter StewardMargaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter Steward

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In the last week of term, the school halls and classrooms were stacked high with furniture and removal boxes. Mrs Jermy said that a number of celebrations had been arranged but none could take place.

“We were unable to mark the end of the building as a school but we will celebrate when it is safe to do so. We will certainly be taking the Woodside ethos with us into the new building,” Mrs Jermy said.

She added that staff and even some children had helped with the packing process.

Margaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter StewardMargaret Thatcher at Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School. Picture: Peter Steward

Work on the new Hethersett Woodside Primary and Nursery School began at the end of July, 2019, as part of a multi-million pound educational revolution in the village which also sees major development at the former Hethersett Junior School which is now Hethersett VC Primary School.

Speaking in July at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Woodside school, Mrs Jermy told this newspaper: “This is an incredibly exciting time for pupils, parents, staff and all our stakeholders and we are all looking forward to seeing this new school take shape. “We are all confident that, by working together, we can extend our current outstanding practice to key stage two and ensure that our children get the best possible start for their future development.”

The future of the Firs Road building hangs in the balance.

Hethersett’s county councillor David Bills said: “Currently there are no positive signs of interest from services at Norfolk County Council. Children’s Services are not interested. As such if there is no interest it will be offered to the open market. Any ideas of usage would be welcomed by County.”

Back in 2014, there were no virus restrictions as the school celebrated its 40th birthday with former pupils and staff returning to enjoy social events and displays. The then Head Nicola Cushion also spoke about the “iconic” shape of the building:

“It was a very innovative school for the 1970s because it’s got 10 sides so the hall is in the centre and all the classrooms come off it,” she said.

Sadly another of the head teachers, Vivienne Horobin, didn’t live to see the move, dying earlier this year.


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