‘Loss of school will be the death of Tipton St John’

Sidmouth firefighters helped cleaning the playground at Tipton primary school. Ref sho 0511-01-16SH.

Sidmouth firefighters helped cleaning the playground at Tipton primary school. Ref sho 0511-01-16SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

More than 450 sign petition against relocation of flood-prone buildings to Ottery St Mary

Tipton school clean up. Ref sho 0616-01-16SH. Photo Simon Horn

Tipton school clean up. Ref sho 0616-01-16SH. Photo Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Tipton St John’s community is rallying to save its school amid fears a proposed relocation would ‘be the death of the village’.

Governors announced a consultation on ambitious plans this week to move the ageing, flood-prone buildings to brand new premises in Ottery at an estimated cost of £4million.

The governing body say this is the ‘only remaining possibility’ having exhausted every option to relocate the school within the village and considering the need to put children’s safety and welfare first.

But parents and residents have reacted with shock to the proposed move and say the loss of the school would hit the entire community and deter families from moving to Tipton.

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A petition launched to save ‘the small rural school with a big heart’ has gained 455 signatures to date.

The chairman of governors, John Sherwood, said: “All concerned parties agree that we cannot maintain the status quo and, as governors, we are continuing to explore ways to secure the long-term future of the school.

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“This option would ensure the school would remain open, retain its Voluntary Aided status and would move to new buildings while retaining absolute continuity in terms of staff, curriculum and ethos. This would not be a decision governors would make lightly and consideration is still at a very early stage.”

Executive headteacher Colin Butler added that a new build school on a single site – as opposed to the current split premises – would provide 21st century learning facilities for pupils.

The proposed solution follows a long battle to relocate the site that has been hit by flash floods on several occasions – most recently in December 2015 and again in April this year.

County councillor Claire Wright argued the school has been let down by government ministers, who rejected applications for funding, and said she is ‘very sad’ that it looks unlikely a new build within the village will take place.

Mum Jemma Wiltshire, of Otter Close, said the community is now rallying to prevent the village losing its school and hopes to work with governors and teachers to find an alternative solution.

Jemma, who has a daughter in year one and a son at the pre-school, said: “The school is really critical to our community and we want to provide a really clear community impact analysis. Longer term, we can see that without a school in the village it will put families off moving there. I have got friends with young children who would just not consider moving to a village that does not have its own school.”

Town councillor and chair of Tipton Residents’ Association, Lyn Harding said: “I think it’s going to be the death of the village. We have done everything we can to keep it in the village. We are keeping our shop going, we have got a pub and we need our school. We need more young blood in Tipton because otherwise we will be left with an ageing population.”

A Devon County Council spokesman confirmed the scheme could be around £4m, but said it had not been costed yet.

The authority, in partnership with the school, governors and the Diocese of Exeter, will look at fundraising if the plans do go ahead and said MP Hugo Swire is also exploring funding options with education secretary Nicky Morgan.

A meeting for parents to express their views will be held in Tipton Village Hall on Wednesday, June 29, at 2.45pm.

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