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School with nine pupils to close

PUBLISHED: 17:38 15 January 2008 | UPDATED: 10:51 15 March 2010

THE fate of one of Suffolk's smallest schools was sealed today after county councillors decided to close it due to falling pupil numbers.

THE fate of one of Suffolk's smallest schools was sealed today after county councillors decided to close it due to falling pupil numbers.

At a meeting held today, members of the county council's Cabinet followed officer recommendations to close Cookley and Walpole Primary School, near Halesworth.

The meeting follows two months of consultation about the primary school's future after the number of children on the roll dropped to just nine in September last year.

Officers recommended closure after being invited by the school's governors and headteacher to look at the viability of the school because of the falling pupil numbers.

Speaking after the meeting, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “I expect a closure notice will be issued to the school be the end of this week. Once this is done, people who wish to comment on the recommendation can do so for the next six weeks.”

He added the comments would then go back to Cabinet and would be reviewed, and, unless anything changed, the school would then be closed.

“Children will most likely be schooled elsewhere from September,” added the spokesman.

Annie Corrie, headteacher at Cookley and Walpole Primary School, is to build on the existing close relationship with Bramfield Primary School in the coming months to make sure the transition of children from one school to the other is as smooth as possible.

Miss Corrie said: “Closing the school is disappointing but understandable given the circumstances.

“What we need to focus on now is making sure that the children who will move to Bramfield find that move as easy as possible.

“So I will be talking with the headteacher at Bramfield to look at ways of giving Cookley and Walpole pupils time to get to know their new surroundings.

“I know the ethos of Bramfield is similar to this school as we often join together for a range of activities and I am sure this will help our pupils to make a smooth transition.”

Cathryn Benefer, headteacher at Bramfield Primary School, added: “This closure is not something anyone would have wished for.

“With the close co-operation there has been in the past, it is sad that, because of the finances federation would not have worked, but, as the two schools have worked closely together to provide joint learning experiences for some time, this should make it easier.

“At Bramfield, we have children joining us from five different pre-schools, so we are used to helping children to settle in.

“We are also pleased that we will be able to provide the facilities to take in any of children currently at Cookley and Walpole who would like join us.”

The school building, which is used by various community groups including the Stepping Stones Pre School, belongs to the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich.

The Venerable John Cox, diocesan director of education, said: “No quick decision about the future of the building will be made - I think the community will suffer enough with the loss of its school.”

He added the issues surrounding the school and its buildings were complex and that ownership of the buildings would have to pass back to the ancestor of the original owner who gave the school to the diocese, if it was no longer to be used for education.

“We will be working with Suffolk County Council to look at the wider educational needs of the area and look for a way forward with regards to the buildings,” added the archdeacon.

Cookley and Walpole Primary School has capacity for 50 pupils. At the beginning of the 2007 autumn term there were only 13 pupils on the roll, but four children then left the school, leaving just nine pupils.

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