New dawn as struggling schools merge

PUBLISHED: 18:02 15 April 2008 | UPDATED: 21:02 07 July 2010

Two neighbouring Thetford schools that have struggled for years will be closed to make way for a new Church of England primary, it was decided this week.

Two neighbouring Thetford schools that have struggled for years will be closed to make way for a new Church of England primary, it was decided this week.

Norfolk County Council's cabinet heard there was “overwhelming” public backing for replacing Canterbury Infant and Abbey Junior with a church primary school.

The decision to close the existing schools was made earlier this year, amid fears that long-standing underachievement would see the government step in to order their closure.

On Monday, cabinet members agreed unanimously to give the go-ahead to the CofE school, which was strongly backed in a recent public consultation. Of the 126 responses, 92 (73 pc) were in favour of the proposal and 34 (27pc) were against.

During the consultation, those in favour said a church school would bring Christian values which could give children a good foundation, would improve behaviour, promote community support and add to the town.

People against the plan were worried about the Church of England's admissions policy, were put off by the “church label,” and that changes were not drastic enough.

Rosalie Monbiot, Norfolk's cabinet member for children's services, said: “There was a question mark over the future of the schools because unfortunately they hadn't been succeeding overall.

“I'm extremely pleased that we've been able to retain these schools in a changed form because for that estate it's very important that they have that school there as a focus for the community.”

A report to the meeting by the council's director of children's services Fred Corbett said: “A new school for the children of the Abbey Estate is an exciting opportunity that would offer greater choice and diversity for children and young people in the area. In particular it could help in raising standards of achievement and even better attendance. The opening of the new school as a Church of England school, drawing on the wider resources and expertise of churches in the town, could help achieve these aims.”

Mr Corbett said: “The consultation process demonstrated a significant majority of respondents in favour of the proposal, including parents of children at the schools. Members of the wider community were overwhelmingly in favour.”

The new school is expected to open in the buildings of the two existing schools in January 2009.

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