School faces closure over pupil numbers

PUBLISHED: 10:16 14 September 2006 | UPDATED: 09:51 31 May 2010

THE future of a Sawston infants school hangs in the balance due to dwindling numbers of primary age children in the village. Cambridgeshire County Council will decide the fate of the John Falkner Infants School on Mill Lane in December. An open surgery

THE future of a Sawston infants' school hangs in the balance due to dwindling numbers of primary age children in the village.

Cambridgeshire County Council will decide the fate of the John Falkner Infants' School on Mill Lane in December.

An open surgery session held in Sawston Village College on Tuesday night gave people a chance to find out more and voice their opinions.

Ian Trafford, who is on the county council's education infrastructure team, revealed that numbers of primary children in Sawston had almost halved in the last 20 years.

He said: "The number of children at a primary school age has gone from more than 700 in the mid-eighties to around 450.

"Enrolment at the school has been falling for some time and it's got to the tipping point where it's biting financially."

One of the main options being considered for the school is an amalgamation with the John Paxton Junior School on Link Road.

This would see the demolition of both buildings and the building of a new joint school on the junior school's land, at a cost of about £3 million.

Mr Trafford said: "At the moment we're considering disposing of the site to part-fund the proposed merger."

Tuesday's meeting was a follow-up to a public meeting held in May. There will be a consultation period from October 2 to November 13, then the council will meet on December 5 to discuss any responses.

Tony Dellar, a member of the Sawston Village Plan Committee, said: "The

John Falkner School is a lovely old building and I would hate to see it demolished for new housing.

"Why not get rid of the newer part of the school and turn the rest into a much-needed community centre for the village?

"The original part of the school, formerly the girls' school, was donated to the village by a wealthy Sawston family in the 1840s.

"There is meant to be a covenant stating that the land can only be used for educational purposes, but it hasn't been seen since it was spotted in a church chest in the village 50 years ago."

He said he was working with the history society to track it down.

The John Falkner Infants' School teaches children up to the age of seven, before they go to John Paxton Junior School.

School secretary, Diane Baslington, said there are currently around 120 children at the school, despite its capacity being 180.

She also confirmed that the number of children being taught there had been gradually decreasing for some time.

The amalgamated replacement school would be an "all-through" primary school, taking on children from the age of four to 11.

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