Battle for rural school goes on

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save a rural school threatened with closure have vowed to fight on – despite a drop in pupil numbers which they fear could signal the end for classes.

CAMPAIGNERS battling to save a rural school threatened with closure have vowed to fight on – despite a drop in pupil numbers which they fear could signal the end for classes.

The new term saw the names of only 17 students included on the register at Gazeley Primary School, near Newmarket – significantly down on the 25 who attended last year.

Now parents and teachers fighting to save the facility, who have been given until March to improve standards, say they face a "major uphill battle" to win the faith of Suffolk county councillors who will decide the school's fate.

Tracie Crascall, a former pupil leading the campaign to keep Gazeley open, said: "The community spirit is still very, very strong, and it is really disappointing that we fought so hard and the numbers have dwindled. Once again, it puts us on the line.


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"This is a really troubling time for everybody, but we are not going to give up.

"We are just taking things step-by-step and are trying to move forward.

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"We are hoping more children will enrol, but achieving that will not be easy. If numbers do not increase, we are facing a major uphill battle. However, I personally am quite willing to take that on.

"We have had so much support from the village and neighbouring schools and are still going strong at the moment. That is the main thing."

Closure plans were first announced in May after Ofsted inspectors uncovered serious weaknesses at the school.

However, Gazeley was granted a reprieve in June, when members of the council's executive committee voted in favour of giving officials another chance to reverse the its fortunes. The situation will be reviewed once more next Spring.

But officials have said the latest drop in pupil numbers – blamed by parents on the uncertainty hanging over the school's future – will not "speed up" any decision on closure.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which run the Local Education Authority, said: "The aim is to keep the school open at the moment, and we are looking at federating it with other neighbouring primary schools.

"We are working with Gazeley Primary to address the weaknesses outlined in the Ofsted report, and will look at the long term future of the school during the spring of 2004."

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