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Closed Devon school to take other pupils

Saturday, July 2nd, 2022 9:00am

By Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter

Chilltehampton Primary School is closing (image courtesy: Google Maps)

Chittlehampton children out; Swimbridge's in

A North Devon primary school will have to temporarily relocate later in the year while work is carried out to stabilise a bank behind it.

Swimbridge C of E Primary has been monitoring the movement of a slope at the back of the school for a number of years and engineers now say remedial work is needed to stabilise the bank.

Steps have been taken to ensure the building is safe for the rest of the current term, but further work will begin during the summer holidays and is likely to continue until the October half-term holiday.

Plans have yet to be finalised, but agreements have been given in principle for Swimbridge staff and pupils to temporarily relocate to Chittlehampton C of E Primary School from September until the October half-term.

It comes weeks after Devon councillors reluctantly agreed to close Chittlehampton school at the end of this current academic year because it has so few pupils.

The school’s numbers have been declining for some time. Just over 40 pupils were enrolled five years ago, but that has dropped every year since and is predicted to fall to just 11 in September – leading the county council to deem it “neither educationally or financially sustainable.”

A report explained how the Chittlehampton’s closure is in the “best educational interests of the children in the future,” adding: “Delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum … is very difficult with such a small and decreasing number of children.”

On the temporary relocation of Swimbridge in September, the school’s executive headteacher, Angela Fleming, said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who has helped us put interim measures in place to ensure the continued safety of our pupils and staff on site this term.

“Moving site temporarily will be a major undertaking but we are committed to managing this with as little disruption as possible and will continue to focus on providing high quality educational provision for all our children throughout.

“We appreciate the generosity and kindness extended to us by Chittlehampton in this time of need.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Exeter said: “We support the Swimbridge C of E Primary school governors in their decision to temporarily move pupils to another site in order to carry out this remedial work as swiftly as possible whilst minimising disruption to learning.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the governors and staff at Chittlehampton C of E Primary and pleased that the two school communities are supporting each other at this time.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter (Conservative, Wearside and Topsham), Devon’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We are working hard to support the school with this situation to ensure the safety of our pupils and their continued education.”

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