March 15 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, January 16, 2014
What is believed to be the smallest school in the country is facing closure after pupil numbers dramatically fell.
Stoke Ash Community Primary School, based off the A140 near Eye, is struggling to stay open with just three children attending lessons, the EADT understands.
The school was placed in special measures in October by an Ofsted inspector who found that in three out of the four marked areas it was performing ‘inadequately’.
Consultation over the school closing has began with pupil numbers dropping from 21 at the time the inspection was carried out in September.
No-one from the school, which at the time of the Ofsted report had had three different headteachers in a year, was available to comment.
Phil Whiffing, Suffolk County Council’s assistant director for school organisation and infrastructure, said the school had only temporary members of staff currently.
“It’s a school where we have looked at and tried partnerships in the past, we have had discussions with the Department for Education and finding an academy sponsor and all of those avenues, I’m afraid, have come to dead ends which is why we must now consider the possibility of closure,” he said.
Andrew Stringer, county councillor for Upping Gipping, who represents the village, said: “I think the county council has questions to answer over the circumstances that that this has come around so quickly. It’s devastating news; the school has been there for almost a century and it seems that circumstances are conspiring that it’s future cannot be secured, which is a great shame and a huge cause for concern.”
Anne Cronin, landlady of The White Horse Inn in the village, had two of her children schooled at Stoke Ash. Her son Jack, 12, left the school last summer to move to Hartismere High School.
Mrs Cronin, 36, said she remembered when around 40 pupils attended the school.
“It’s always been a small school, it’s gone up and down for a number of years”, she said.
“It has not had a permanent headteacher for a while and I think it’s had an effect.”
She said that Stoke Ash had for a time worked with nearby Thorndon CEVCP Primary School, sharing the same headteacher.
Charles Tilbury, district councillor for the village, said schools were part of the fabric of a community, along with a post office and pub. He said it would be sad if the school were to close but added that economically it was “simply not sustainable”.
The school’s consultation is expected to run until next Friday. Mr Whiffing said statutory notices advising of the school’s closure could be published next month.