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Village’s only primary school could close and be turned into houses

A village may lose its only primary school because of financial difficulties, it has been revealed.

Multi-academy trust Academy Transformation Trust (ATT) is considering closing Beck Row primary academy, near Mildenhall, and selling its site for housing.

The Birmingham-based chain has not given any details on its plans, only that it had moved to the "due diligence and feasibility stages."

Residents of the village however, said they would fight the idea "tooth and nail", according to a local councillor.

The information was discovered after a presentation at a conference by LocatEd, the Department for Education's property company.

The talk did not name the school or academy trust involved – but a photo on the presentation showed the locations of two schools showing Mildenhall airbase in Suffolk.

Described as an example of a LocatEd and DfE "pilot project", the development idea would cover up to 20 sites across England where schools and academy trusts are being "supported" to develop sites for housing.

Under the plan, Beck Row would theoretically be merged with another nearby school run by ATT called Great Heath primary.

The Beck Row site would be closed and sold off, with the 200 pupils sent to Great Heath – whose site would be redeveloped.

Cllr Colin Noble, who represents Beck Row on Suffolk County Council, told investigative news website Education Uncovered: "Academies are good for education but when a group even begins to suggest that a school in a village might close then [it's] time to challenge such thinking.

"Schools are community assets not the play thing of any one trust and if there are any proposals to remove a completely viable school from our community in Beck Row I am sure residents [would] join me as we would fight tooth and nail to stop such."

Beck Row Primary Academy

Louis Busuttil, county councillor for Mildenhall, who is also a local governor at Beck Row primary academy, said: "There is not yet any clear rationale behind any suggestion that the two schools – which already serve their local communities very well – should be merged.

"I would also be opposed to this. It is not necessary nor desirable. Both Great Heath and Beck Row are growing schools. Both are needed where they are, and both are well managed.

"It aint broke – dont fix it."

What is the main aim of the 'pilot project'?

DfE's state-owned property company LocatED was set up in 2016 by a group of property experts – which was given £2 billion by the Government to buy sites for free schools.

The government previously said the company would bring "greater negotiating power" to help secure sites at a better value for the taxpayer.

The new pilot scheme would be to sell off 'surplus' land for housing and keep the money to fund building repairs for other schools.

In May, LocatED chose 20 sites in the country to be sold off.

Cllr Busuttil added that a merger would create a transport problem for Beck Row families and the council transport planners.

The Schools and Academies Show presentation showed the Beck Row site would be subject to a housing development, which appeared to be around 25 houses.

The Great Heath site may gain a new building to accommodate both schools.

A spokesperson for Academy Transformation Trust said in a statement: "It is no secret that education funding is tight and as a forward-thinking trust it is right that we consiRead More – Source