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First new Catholic primary school in decades gets public backing

PUBLISHED: 05:00 11 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:23 11 March 2019

Pupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school is closing its senior school but a new primary could be opened. Picture: Sacred Heart School

Pupils at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham. Funding pressures mean the school is closing its senior school but a new primary could be opened. Picture: Sacred Heart School

Sacred Heart School

Plans to open a new Catholic primary school – the first in Norfolk for decades – have received the backing of 90% of those people who took part in a public consultation.

Sacred Heart School in Swaffham where the senior school is to close but a new primary could be opened. Picture Matthew Usher.Sacred Heart School in Swaffham where the senior school is to close but a new primary could be opened. Picture Matthew Usher.

Following overwhelming public support for the new school in Swaffham the Diocese of East Anglia has decided to press ahead with its recent proposals to Norfolk County Council to open a school on the site of the current Sacred Heart School.

Sacred Heart, a fee-paying school which has 162 pupils across its nursery, lower and senior schools, is due to close at the end of the summer term.

The school, which came to national attention in 2017 thanks to a television series, failed to raise enough funding to keep it open despite a public plea to help save it.

Helen Bates, assistant director of the school's service at the Diocese of East Anglia. Picture: Keith MorrisHelen Bates, assistant director of the school's service at the Diocese of East Anglia. Picture: Keith Morris

The Catholic Diocese of East Anglia had launched the consultation on a potential new non-fee paying school to gather views from parents, staff and the local community.

Helen Bates, diocesan assistant director for schools, said: “We want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to our consultation about the new school. We received 137 responses and 90% of these wanted to see a new Catholic primary school in Swaffham. We also received support from local civic leaders including Swaffham Town Council.

“This level of support means we can now go through the legal requirements needed to apply to open a new school.”

Channel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham in 2017. Pictured are sister Michaela Switaj and model Gabby Ryan. Picture: Ian BurtChannel 5 show Bad Habits was filmed at the Sacred Heart Convent in Swaffham in 2017. Pictured are sister Michaela Switaj and model Gabby Ryan. Picture: Ian Burt

Founded in 1914, Sacred Heart is run by a religious group known as the Daughters of Divine Charity.

It starred in the Channel 5 series Bad Habits, Holy Orders, which saw five party girls spend a month with the school’s sisters.

The nearest alternative Catholic schools are in King’s Lynn and Costessey, which many parents feel is too far for primary-aged children to travel.

Sacred Heart School in Swaffham celebrated it 100th anniversary in 2014 but will close this July. Picture: Matthew Usher.Sacred Heart School in Swaffham celebrated it 100th anniversary in 2014 but will close this July. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The final decision on whether to open the new school will be made by Norfolk County Council with a decision expected by the end of April.

If approved, it would open on September 1. The process would see the pupils in primary year groups at Sacred Heart move over to the new school.

Comments about the proposal can be made to Norfolk County Council until April 5 by emailing schoolreview@norfolk.gov.uk

Pupils running at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham where a new primary school could open. Picture: Sacred Heart SchoolPupils running at Sacred Heart School in Swaffham where a new primary school could open. Picture: Sacred Heart School

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