175-year-old primary school under threat of permanent closure

Hexton JMI School could permanently close in July next year.

Hexton JMI School could permanently close in July next year. - Credit: Google Maps

A primary school with a 175-year history is under threat of closure, leaving pupils and staff facing an uncertain future.

Hexton JMI School has capacity for 70 pupils, but had just 40 on the school roll at the last Ofsted inspection, when the school was rated good.

Herts County Council will consider the school's future at a meeting of the Education, Libraries and Lifelong Learning Panel on Friday.

A county council spokesman said: “Hexton JMI School is located to the north of the county, close to the border with central Beds, and the majority of its pupils live outside of Herts.

"The school’s low pupil numbers mean they must teach all its pupils across two classes of mixed age groups, creating substantial challenges in continuing to provide quality education across a broad range of needs.

“Due to low local demand and financial constraints, the only responsible option is to consider the future of the school and its pupils."

If the panel recommends proceeding to the next phase, proposals will be taken to Cabinet in September.

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If Cabinet then decides to proceed, all parents and staff at the school will be notified and a full consultation will be launched, with a decision expected early in 2022.

The closure threat has left staff and pupils' parents reeling. Parent Kylie Johnson said: "Pupil numbers have grown in the last 18 months, and still remain above our historic low, despite the pandemic reducing the true ability of the school to recruit further pupils.

"The closure will be a significant further disruption to our children’s education in the most disrupted educational year ever.

"It will result in fundamental change in characteristics and atmosphere of a historical Herts village.

"Once the school closes, it will never return. This will drive families away, or fail to attract families to the village.

"A school with 175 years worth of history deserves every chance to be made viable."

A spokesman for the school said: "The governing body, along with parents of pupils, are strongly opposed to the proposal by Herts County Council, which would see the school close in July 2022."

Headteacher Sonia Fenner said she cannot comment further at this time.