A rural Northumberland school which has twice been saved from closure in recent years is now looking ahead to a bright future.
At one point, it looked very much as if Branton Community First School would fall victim of the controversial switch to a two-tier system in the Alnwick Partnership.
However, in the end, the community support and the school’s efforts ensured that it will become a primary school in September like the others.
Next weekend, the school is hosting a fete, organised by the PTA – Friends of Branton First School, as a celebration of the end of the first school and the start of the primary school, but it is also a chance for people from the community and beyond to see the school and its preparations for the new era, as well as raising much-needed funds.
And while headteacher Zoe Ryan admits that their preparations for primary started later as their initial focus was on saving the school, since the final decision they have been ‘beavering away’.
“It’s an exciting time, there’s lots of things happening; we are making changes to the curriculum, we are strengthening partnerships with other schools, we are looking at accommodation and looking at provision for the older two year groups.”
Mrs Ryan joined the school in January 2014 and she has been ‘overwhelmed’ by the support of the local community, adding: “The community takes great pride in our little school.”
It was this spirit which helped the school fight off closure in 2012, with the formation of a community powers nursery, now under the school’s wing as a maintained nursery too.
At that time, there were eight children on roll at the school, now there are 18 with 13 youngsters in the nursery.
“We have good, healthy numbers so the next few years look positive,” said Mrs Ryan. “You don’t know what’s round the corner and we do have capacity at the top end of the school, but we’re very pleased with the increase in numbers and excited for the opportunities which will arise.
“We want to continue in the vein that we have established and develop that in the future.”
The fete takes place on Saturday, June 25, from 11am to 2pm. There will be pony rides, guess the name of the sheep, forest-school activities, refreshments plus a chance to look at the school and grounds.