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Closure looms for smallest school

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THE closure of Kent's smallest secondary school has moved a step nearer. County councillors have voted to issue a public notice to close the Eden Valley School in Edenbridge, near Sevenoaks.

The comprehensive school for 11-to-18-year-olds is thought to be the second smallest in the country with just 211 pupils. County education chiefs have recommended the closure after concluding that its size meant that pupils were unlikely to receive a satisfactory standard of education.

Parents have vowed to fight the threat of closure and unsuccessfully pleaded for the school to be given more time to be turned round.

Eden Valley was placed in special measures earlier this year. Kent County Council sought to keep the school open by creating a partnership with Tonbridge Girls Grammar School in 2000 but it has continued to suffer a fall in pupil numbers and mounting debts.

At a meeting of KCC's Conservative cabinet, councillors were urged by parents to think twice before issuing a public notice. Stephen Marshall, chairman of the Eden Valley Parents Action Group, said KCC was not giving the school enough time to lift itself out of special measures.

Cabinet member for Schools Organisation Cllr Leyland Ridings defended the move to close the school and praised the commitment of staff. "We have tried enormously hard to keep this school open," he said. "This is a decision which has been taken very reluctantly but it is one I am sure is right."

The school could close in September provided there are no objections when the proposal is considered by the county's Schools Organisation Committee in May. If objections are made, a final decision will rest with the Schools Adjudicator.

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