ROMSEY'S MP has described the recommendations to close a Hampshire village school as 'very sad'.

Caroline Nokes made the comments after Hampshire County Council published a report about the future of Ampfield Church of England Primary School.

The decision will be rubber-stamped on Friday, January 19 by Cllr Edward Heron, county council executive lead member for children’s services.

Cllr Heron will launch a formal consultation, based on the recommendations made.

The school has seen a consistently low intake of new pupils in recent years and, as of September, had just 26 pupils. 

It would shut its doors on August 31, meaning this would be the last academic year.

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Ms Nokes said: “The real challenge around Ampfield School is simply the sustainability of keeping open a school with such low numbers. The hopes we all had, back when the school was last considered for closure, that additional house building in the area would see numbers increase, have simply not been realised. 

“What Ampfield does incredibly well is support children with special educational needs and it is obvious that some pupils are travelling significant distances to attend the school. But it is fair to say that not a single parent, with a child currently at the school, has been in touch with me with any concerns about the proposed closure.

“But there is an issue regarding the future of the site, which would transfer back to the previous owners (or descendants thereof) meaning that an educational asset will be lost to the county. That causes me significant concern, but is secondary to the educational prospects of the pupils. What matters is that they all be found suitable alternatives, hopefully in some cases closer to where they live, and able to support them in that transition. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Caroline Nokes

“It is very sad that this has to even be considered, but numbers on roll are just far too low for the school to be viable.”

Cllr Geoff Cooper, the Liberal Democrat election candidate, attended a public meeting about the plans last year. He said: "No one wants to see schools being closed. Once a school is gone, it's lost forever. I appreciate that the decision to close any school is a complex one, which I am sure no council takes lightly. 

“I only hope that every possible angle is explored to try and save the school. Ampfield Primary School provides many children, including several with special educational needs (SEN), with a safe and happy environment. 

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“Given the demand for SEN places in the county, I very much hope that this is factored into Hampshire County Council's decision. If the school is to be closed, it is essential that alternative provision is found for those children and that their parents are satisfied that those needs are being met."

Cllr Alan Dowden said: “Many people in the area have concerns about this issue.

“Of the 26 pupils currently studying at Ampfield Church of England Primary School, only two of them are actually from the immediate local area.

“All of those 24 students are from the wider Southampton area, and with such few pupils this has created challenges such as mixed age group learning. 

“Obviously this isn’t the ideal way the curriculum is delivered, and it is not something that would be reflected well by Ofsted.”

In the county council's report, it said: “It was concluded that the low number of families living in catchment and the low number of families making a preference for the school mean that concerns around the provision of education and the national curriculum would not be solved by conversion to an academy. It is also highly unlikely that a sponsor could be found due to the low pupil numbers and financial position of the school.

Should a decision be taken to hold a formal consultation, a public notice would be published.

Full details of the recommendation can be found on the county council’s website.