Suffolk: Whatfield Primary hailed a success while Monks Eleigh fights to save tiny primary school

Teachers and pupils outside Monks Eleigh Primary School. Teachers and pupils outside Monks Eleigh Primary School.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
12:11 PM

Whatfield Primary near Hadleigh has been hailed as a good example of how small schools can work at their best.

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Whatfield CEVCP School received a Kitemark from School Games for their physical education programme. Whatfield CEVCP School received a Kitemark from School Games for their physical education programme.

Despite having only 37 students, the school received a “good” rating from Ofsted and was described by inspectors as a “small school with a can-do attitude”.

Whatfield is not part of a federation and headteacher Lynne Golding said school governors had voted to keep it that way.

She told the EADT: “Children are individuals and the benefit of having a small school is that we are able to treat them as such.

“Money and resources are a challenge but as a smaller school we can give kids opportunities that bigger schools are often unable to - and we can give them more time.

“We have to be very aware of numbers and as the whole of the financial structure seems to be changing this could put us in a predicament going forward.”

Parents and staff believe the school is essential to keeping the Whatfield community vibrant.

Ms Golding added: “If we had to federate to keep the school here then we would consider it, but as we are successful the way we are, the governors feel they would prefer for us to remain as an individual unit.”

Meanwhile, members of the Monks Eleigh community are fighting to keep their village primary school open.

The school, which has been part of a federation partnership with Boxford Primary since September 2011, was judged “inadequate” after Ofsted inspectors visited in July.

Since the report was published, the number of students has dropped from 30 to just 15 and the county council has confirmed that closing the school is an option.

The partnership with Boxford is due to end at Christmas and a new headteacher, Karen Harmen, has been given a six-month contract to help raise the profile of Monks Eleigh Primary.

She said: “It’s been a difficult six months but the school is doing everything it can to attract more pupils and get things back on track.”

Former teacher and villager Barbara Sims believes closing the school would be the wrong decision, because it has great potential. She added: “Schools in Suffolk are already over subscribed so it doesn’t make any sense to close a school that is such a valuable part of the community. There is no reason why it shouldn’t flourish again with a bit of extra support.”