Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Parents in Downham Market school places controversy step up pressure

Parents of Upwell and Outwell schoolchildren turned down for places at Downham Market Academy are stepping up the pressure to get the youngsters to the school of their choice.

If their appeal fails, up to 19 children from the two Fenland villages face a 45-minute bus trip at each end of the day to a school they know nothing about.

They had all expected to be starting at Downham Academy in the autumn term and the parents were shocked and angry to find out that they would have to go to Iceni Academy, at Methwold, instead.

Tara Rust hands the petition to county councillor Chris Dawson on behalf of the Upwell and Outwell parents
Tara Rust hands the petition to county councillor Chris Dawson on behalf of the Upwell and Outwell parents

They have already appealed against the decision and have now set up a support group, appointed a spokesperson and presented a 700-signature petition to Norfolk County Council education committee.

Their spokesperson, Outwell parish councillor, Tara Rust said: “It was decided that there is strength in numbers and that it would be better to take a co-ordinated approach rather than individually, It would give it a bit more punch.

“We are not going to sit back and accept it. We will keep pushing. We don’t want it to set a precedent.”

Fifteen children from Beaupre School, Outwell and four from Upwell Academy had expected to go to their chosen secondary academy at Downham and were taken aback when they learned that it was over-subscribed.

One mum, whose child is among those still hoping to be accepted at Downham Market Academy, but does not want to be named, said when the story first broke: “Methwold is a school we never knew anything about until we got the offer letter. If we had known there was a possibility our children would be sent there rather than one of the other local schools we would have visited it.

“Instead, we just assumed, because Upwell children have always gone to Downham, there would not be a problem. We talked about Thomas Clarkson Academy and Marshland High School, but we never considered schools further away.

“Our children are devastated that they are facing being separated from their friends and we are just hoping that the school or Norfolk County Council will reconsider.”

Tara, who presented the petition to county councillor Chris Dawson, said the number of signatures, collected online and on paper, showed the strength of feeling in the villages.

“There was no prior warning.” she said. “As well as the travel involved I going to Methwold it will make it difficult for the children to take part in after-school activities and to establish friendships.

“They have had to accept the placings – rather than risk having nowhere to go – and now submit appeals against the decision. It means there is an element of uncertainty – September is not that far away.

She said that it goes to highlight a problem that could be worsened by future housing developments.

“This is not just for this year – it could happen again in the future.”

And she added: The education department has been very understanding and are doing their best.”

A spokesperson for Norfolk County Council has already said: “The published admission limit for Downham Market Academy is 240.

“The Academy Trust agreed to offer 270 places for September 2022 but felt unable to do the same for September 2023 and on National Offer Day 240 children were offered places. Since offer day the Trust agreed a further 10 places and we are now working to a maximum of 250.”

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More