Parents reassured over school's future

PARENTS were last night assured that the future of their popular village primary school was safe – even though the numbers could fall by more than 50%.

PARENTS were last night assured that the future of their popular village primary school was safe – even though the numbers could fall by more than 50%.

But they were warned that they must continue to support Eyke Primary School, near Woodbridge, and take no notice of any rumours that could circulate in the village.

A special parish council meeting was held in the village hall where David Thornton, Suffolk County Council's acting director of learning, repeatedly emphasised the county was not going to close the school.

"There are no proposals, no intentions, no hidden agendas that would involve the county council considering the closure of Eyke school. There isn't the closure of a school on the agenda here," said Mr Thornton.

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Villagers have been unsettled by a consultation programme that focuses on the future of Eyke and Sandlings primary schools and this has led to fears that Eyke could close.

Many new pupils are forecast to move into the area because of the new homes being built at Rendlesham and the redevelopment of Woodbridge Airfield.

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The county will either build a new school at Rendlesham to cope with the extra numbers and reduce Eyke's roll from 155 to 70, or it will expand Eyke and Sandlings schools.

Eyke used to be a small traditional village school serving the immediate rural area but it has grown considerably in recent years to cater for an influx of children at Rendlesham after the American air base closed at Bentwaters.

Mr Thornton said: "If we build a new school, Eyke would revert to its traditional role as a village school serving a rural area and the likelihood is it would go down to about 70 children.

"In Suffolk we have 71 primary schools with 75 or fewer pupils on roll. So if that were to be an option it would not mean that Eyke would be unusual in terms of the provision of village schools in the county, all of whom the county council supports and promotes, and generally they do well in Ofsted reports and SATS results.

"Small village schools can be very successful and provide a quality of education that suits particular families and children. They have tremendous strength but they are vulnerable, because of their size, to staff illness and one member of staff away can have a disproportionate effect.

"They are also vulnerable to rumour, gossip and uncertainty. It only takes a few families who think they should move away, just to be on the safe side, for a school to get a little uncertain. This affects pupil numbers, the budget and staffing.'

Mr Thornton added: "If Eyke is positive and confident about its future and has a vision for the school which is realistic and aspirational, a lot of parents will respond to that. It is offering something different to a larger school that could be built at Rendlesham.

"Eyke will have to set out its stall, should there be a new school, and keep as many children from its own catchment area as possible. The other aim is to make it an attractive alternative school for those parents who want something different that a small village school can offer.''

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