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Facing closure: One of Cambridgeshire’s oldest and smallest schools

The future of one of Cambridgeshire’s oldest and smallest schools is in doubt.

Councillors will be asked to approve a consultation that could lead to the closure of Great Gidding C of E Primary and pupils switching to alternative schools.

Pupil numbers have dropped there in the last decade from 75 to 47, and 35 of those come from outside the school’s mainly rural catchment area.

Cambridgeshire County Council, the local education authority, projects that this pattern will continue, with the total number of pupils at the school likely to fall below 40 by September 2024.

Funding received by an individual maintained school is predominantly determined by school size, so the council believes it will soon become too difficult for the primary to sustain its good educational standards with the money available.

At their meeting on January 17, the council’s children and young people committee will be asked to agree to the start of a consultation on the potential closure of the Huntingdonshire school.

If agreed, interested parties, including parents and the wider community, will be asked their views before a decision is made.

The consultation will also include details of other Church of England and community schools at which Great Gidding pupils would be offered places. There will be details on arrangements for those with special educational needs and consideration of the impact on the community and on travel.

Committee chair Cllr Bryony Goodliffe said: “This is a very important decision, which will start the process to determine the future of Great Gidding C of E Primary School. Officers are of the view that the school is not currently viable in the coming years, so we need to consult on its future.

“Educational provision and outcomes for children must always be our foremost priority. However, it is important that we seek the views of the wider community before coming to any final decision, so we are asking committee to start the consultation process when it meets on January 17.”

The Church of England founded the primary in 1845, although there is evidence of a school on the site - which lies about 10 miles north-west of Huntingdon - going back to 1750.

Andrew Read, director of education for Ely Diocese, added: “It is always difficult to contemplate the uncertain future of schools which have been, and remain, centres of their rural communities.

“However, in the uncompromising face of challenging funding conditions, we must be pragmatic and put children’s educational needs first. We thus continue to work in supportive partnership with the local authority in this important consultation with the community, not least for the sake of ensuring long term community access to sustainable, high quality, inclusive school places - whether in the village, or if necessary in alternative similar proximal schools.”

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