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Anger over decision to permanently close Stoke Primary Academy near Hoo

Rochester MP Kelly Tolhurst says she is hugely disappointed following confirmation that Stoke Primary School is to close.

The Leigh Academies Trust is writing to parents today to confirm the school in Lower Stoke near Hoo will be merged with Allhallows Primary from September 1 – and that the Stoke site will close from August 31.

Stoke Primary Academy in Lower Stoke. Picture: Google Maps
Stoke Primary Academy in Lower Stoke. Picture: Google Maps

The new school will be based at the Allhallows site and will be called Peninsula East Primary Academy.

A statement from the Trust said: "Following referral to Baroness Berridge, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, Leigh Academies Trust received confirmation yesterday afternoon, 7th June, in a letter from Claire Burton, the Regional Schools’ Commissioner for the South East and South London, that the Minister has given her full support to the Trust’s proposal to amalgamate Stoke Primary Academy and Allhallows Primary Academy from 1st September 2021.

"We will therefore be proceeding with the merger as outlined to parents in our consultation with them earlier this year and supported by 87% of respondents. We will be using the site and buildings at Allhallows Primary Academy as the location for the newly merged academy."

The Trust says the letter received from the Minister confirmed her support for the change and accepted that Stoke Primary Academy, which has fewer than thirty pupils on roll, “is not sustainable”, and noted just six parents chose Stoke as their first preference school for Reception-age pupils starting in September 2021.

Back in 2019 protestors marched between the two school sites to rally against merger plans, which were then turned down by the government.

Protestors marching against merger plans in 2019
Protestors marching against merger plans in 2019

Two years on MP Kelly Tolhurst said she believes the decision to now approve the scheme is short-sighted and does not take into account the wider implications of the closure.

In a statement online she said: "It is hugely disappointing that this afternoon I have heard that the decision to close Stoke Primary School has been approved. This is something that I have been fighting against since the proposals were first initiated and I have had numerous conversations with the Leigh Academies Trust, the Council, and Government Ministers.

"This will be another loss of a rural school and loss of future school places that will desperately be needed if Medway Council continues with its plans for development on the Peninsula. I will now be looking to Medway Council to seek assurances that the local area will have the school places it needs as I still have not seen any hard evidence to suggest that we have the local services to provide for future development.

"What now happens to the Stoke site remains a matter of concern and I will be pushing the Council to ensure that the building does not fall into disuse and can remain a useful asset to the community - I have already heard suggestions that the building could be home to a new nursery and I will be following up such plans."

Kelly Tolhurst in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv
Kelly Tolhurst in the House of Commons. Picture: Parliamentlive.tv

In a further statement Ms Tolhurst reiterated the closure would be a "disappointing loss " but added that she understood many parents were content with the merger.

She added: "The Academy Trust has consulted with parents on the matter and transport provisions have now been assured so that all pupils are able to travel to the new site.

"Medway Council have also forecast that that there are expected to be no problems with school places between now and 2026, which will have supported the Trust’s position and provided decision makers with some confidence to close the Stoke site. I remain concerned that this forecast only looks at the present number of births in the area and does not consider the wider development that the Council are planning for the Peninsula.”

The Trust statement says it is "committed to working with Medway Council to handover the site so that it can be maintained as a community facility".

It added that parents do not need to buy new uniform for September 2021 but that they will be asked to buy replacement items from the new academy’s uniform stock.

The new uniform will also be available to buy in the weeks ahead for parents who wish to purchase it as well as for children in the new reception class.

It also says the nursery currently at Stoke will move to the new Allhallows site, and they will invest in Reception class facilities over the summer break.

There will be further investment in IT equipment, and from September, all Peninsular East Primary children will have access to a device, whether this be a Chromebook or iPad, whilst in the academy.

The Trust also says it is committed to providing transport for the Stoke Village community to the new school and that a new minibus has been bought for this purpose.

They added: "Over the next few weeks we will be writing to Stoke Academy parents to ensure that all those that need access to transport will have it from September.

"The newly merged academy will also have enhanced wrap around care. In addition to the breakfast club currently offered at Allhallows we will also be exploring options to provide an after school club which is something that has been requested by parents but up until now was not viable to offer.

"The Trust appreciates that some members of the Stoke community may be disappointed by this decision but we hope that parents will see the countless benefits for their children and that the improved education experience for their will in time alleviate any doubts about this decision."

Read more: all the latest news from Medway.

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