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Parents fear Whitbourne school could close
PARENTS have vowed to fight to save a 160-year-old village school threatened with closure.
The future of Whitbourne CE Primary School, on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire border, is “under discussion” because of dwindling pupil numbers, Herefordshire Council has confirmed.
The news was broken to parents last night and a public meeting is set to take place tomorrow at 7pm in the village hall.
A decision on its fate will be made next month.
Belinda Beale, whose sons Aden, aged four, and Callum, 10, both attend the school, said she was devastated by the news.
She urged members of the community to show their support by attending the meeting and to get in touch with suggestions for how to save Whitbourne primary.
The 40-year-old said: “I attended the school in the 70s and 80s, and a lot of the parents that have got children here attended as well.
“The governors have tried to do what they can over the last 12 months. It’s been an ongoing situation.
“You don’t expect it to happen. I enjoyed my time there and I always said if I had children I wanted them to stay here and have the enjoyment out of primary school that I had.
“I don’t know where Aden will go. I don’t drive so it’ll be a case of putting him on a bus or a taxi. Obviously, we’re going to be putting up a fight.”
The nearest schools are between three and five miles away in Brockhampton, Broadwas, Suckley and Martley.
Anna Marshall, a member of Whitbourne’s PTA with two children at the school, said there was no guarantee they could accommodate extra pupils or that siblings would stay together.
She claimed the drop in pupil numbers was down to the council’s failure to quash previous rumours of the school’s closure and that the authority had done little to support parents.
Mrs Marshall said: “I appreciate we live in very difficult times and I know that they have to make cuts somewhere, but there’s a bigger picture.
“The school was established in 1856 and is in the middle of a close community. It’s very important and sometimes there are things money cannot buy.
“We asked the council, ‘we do we think is the solution?’, and they said ‘we can’t say’. We’re researching free schools but the time scale is not our side. We just feel they haven’t done anything to help us save the school.
“We think they very much want to close that school. In one year, we’ve managed to get it from 18 pupils to 25, and if we had more time we believe we could improve year by year.”
Commenting on behalf of the school and the LEA, Chris Baird, assistant director at Herefordshire Council, said forecasts indicate pupil numbers are likely to fall further and discussions about the school’s future are taking place with the full support of the governors and the diocese.
He said: “Schools with small rolls face considerable challenges not least budgetary ones.
“The governors of the school, the Diocesan Board of Education and Herefordshire Council, have been working together to explore options that will secure the best education arrangements for the children, families and communities in Herefordshire.
“Collectively, the council, school and diocese are talking to parents, staff and members of the local community to explore every possible avenue for the future.
“Possibilities include working in collaboration with another or other schools. Alternatively there may be a community group that wishes to pursue a free school option. Discussions will continue over the next few weeks before a decision is made about the school’s future in March 2013.”
A Facebook page titled Save Whitbourne CE Primary School has been set up and anyone with ideas for preserving the school can email Mrs Beale via firstname.lastname@example.org.