Falling school numbers 'scary' for town

HALESWORTH councillors have warned that a projected “plummet” in the number of primary school pupils could be an early signal of the town falling into deprivation.

HALESWORTH councillors have warned that a projected “plummet” in the number of primary school pupils could be an early signal of the town falling into deprivation.

Now they are bidding to tackle the problem by putting pressure on authorities for better transport and more affordable housing to keep and attract people to the town.

Speaking at a Halesworth Town Council meeting on Wednesday, councillor Alan Holzer said the latest projected number for Edgar Sewter Primary School was 144 pupils by 2014.

He said: “For the roll in a school to go down to 144, considering that within pretty short memory it had close on 300, is very frightening.”

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He said the figure even allowed for the addition of years 5 and 6 to the school, which will follow the closure of Halesworth Middle School as part of the county-wide schools shake-up.

Mr Holzer said the predicted drop could have serious implications for investment projects, such as the children's centre being built at the school by Suffolk County Council, in that schools with dwindling numbers eventually become unsustainable.

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“It puts all this under threat and I think we need to write to the Education Authority to see if this is the correct figure and ask what they intend to do,” he said.

The projected figure for pupil numbers at Edgar Sewter of 144, compared to its current roll of 187, was produced by the school and put before governors. Mr Holzer, a school governor, added: “The fall off in school roll is a very serious demographic issue.”

He added that the level of social housing that there should be in Halesworth was “nowhere near” being achieved.

Councillors agreed the projected pupil figure could be symbolic of a wider problem that saw young people from the town being priced out of the housing market, and meant poor community facilities and services.

Councillor Tony Goldson said investment in infrastructure was needed to improve poor bus and train links, adding: “We have got to encourage people to come here and how we do that is by developing and attracting businesses.”

Councillor James Wagner said that in his opinion the housing situation, coupled with the loss of the middle school and lack of sports facilities, meant that within about two years the town would become “very very deprived”.

A Suffolk County Council spokesman said: “School rolls have been falling nationally for some years,” he said. “As a result of the school organisation review we expect the roll at Edgar Sewter to increase to about 200 from September 2011.”

He added: “Population changes go in cycles and there are signs of some growth in school rolls nationally but this will affect parts of Suffolk at different times.”

Town councillors resolved to pursue the education matter with Suffolk County Council and to approach Waveney about increasing social housing.

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