‘Children are the real losers’ - Fears raised over impact of potential Holt Hall closure
The former head of Holt Hall has warned if that if the “much loved” outdoor education centre is closed the county’s children will be the “real losers.”
Norfolk County Council has said it can no longer afford to run Holt Hall and is proposing closing the centre.
A final decision on the facility, which celebrated its 70th anniversary earlier this year, is yet to be made but the authority is currently consulting the centre’s 13 staff on closing the hall.
That is despite John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, suggesting on Wednesday that a decision had already been made.
It emerged the following day that Mr Fisher had spoken too soon, and in fact the consultation is set to continue.
The consultation comes after a NCC review of Holt Hall found it had cost the authority more than £270,000 over the last three years.
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The review, which looked into what the impact of withdrawing Holt Hall’s services would be, asked all of Norfolk’s schools if they were planning to book any residential trips in the next two years and their thoughts on what the impact of closing the facility would be.
The school consultation was started in March but paused because of coronavirus, restarted in July and followed up in September.
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The council received a response from 14pc of the county’s schools, with the majority saying they would have some concerns if residential visits to Holt Hall were stopped.
Christine Marshall, a former head of Holt Hall, criticised the council’s review of the centre and expressed her sadness that it might close, she said: “The ruling group at County Hall always intended to close and sell Holt Hall even before their efforts at a consultation began in March, were postponed and resumed in a limited way in September.”
MORE: Holt Hall: 70-years of school trips and moreMrs Marshall said NCC’s decision to close Holt Hall would “wipe out” what it acknowledged was “an excellent and much loved facility, with a high standard of expertise and provision.”
She said: “The real losers here are the young people of Norfolk. It is high time NCC put children and the environment nearer to the top of their agenda and prioritised their rounded education and well being above car park and road extensions.
“My heart goes out to the extremely talented, hard working and dedicated team of staff at Holt Hall who now face redundancy after working so hard for so many years to bring excellence to Norfolk’s young people.”
Stacey Coleman, headteacher at Heather Avenue Infant School in Norwich which is part of The Wensum Trust, also expressed her sadness at the potential loss of the hall.
She said pupils from the school had participated in residential trips to Holt Hall for the last three years.
Ms Coleman said: “Our children made some wonderful memories at Holt Hall during the Christmas period each year.
“They had the opportunity to do lots of outdoor learning, and it was such a pleasure to watch them explore the grounds and to gain a sense of wonder as we went on our evening walks, toasted marshmallows, looked at the stars and sang Christmas songs. Those are memories that stay with some of us for an entire lifetime!
“Our pupil’s picked a residential visit as something they would like to experience during a school council group, so this really is a great shame for the children and families of our community.”