Parents rap council for missing meeting

By Dave GooderhamA COUNTY councillor has branded education bosses “disgraceful” after they did not attend a public meeting called to try to save a village school.

By Dave Gooderham

A COUNTY councillor has branded education bosses “disgraceful” after they did not attend a public meeting called to try to save a village school.

The meeting, organised by parents in protest at a proposal to close Gazeley Primary School, attracted more than 100 people, but no-one from Suffolk County Council.

Jane Andrews-Smith, county councillor for the Icknield ward, said: “I think it is disgraceful there was no representatives from Suffolk County Council's education department at Wednesday's meeting.

“I think it was wrong as residents wanted to air their views collectively. Everyone was quite annoyed by them not turning up.”

She added: “There is real concern in Gazeley. The school is the hub and the lifeblood of the village and there is overwhelming support to keep it open.

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“We have had schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses in the area before, but they have been turned around.”

A campaign group, Save Our School, has been set up and a petition has already attracted 200 signatures.

The threat of closure is very personal for campaign co-ordinator and former pupil Tracie Crascall, who has had three generations of her family go through the school.

Her father, Malcolm, was one of the first pupils at the school when it opened in 1959 and her nephew, Thomas, seven, currently attends it.

She said: “This is very personal to me and I can't believe how quickly it has gone from a bad inspection report to talk of closure.

“I felt the meeting was excellent and the turnout was absolutely brilliant. Nearly all the parents were there and there were lots of villagers as well.

“There were a lot of unanswered questions and there was a small amount of blame on the governors. But I think people now realise we have to work together to save the school.”

With just 25 pupils, the school is one of the smallest in Suffolk. Parents have until May 27 to make their feelings known through a county council consultation document setting out four options.

Keeping the school open is expected to be the preferred choice, although parents can also indicate a preference to close the school and move their children to nearby schools in Moulton or Barrow.

A federation of neighbouring schools sharing a common headteacher and governing body is another option.

Suffolk County council's area education manager, Tom Scherb, said it had received an invitation to the meeting on Friday, but pointed out that had been too short notice.

Mr Scherb was expected to talk to groups of parents in a series of meetings last night. “The object of this exercise is to listen to what they have to say and then we will make a decision in early June,” he said.

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