Just one pupil to start at Hindringham Primary School’s reception class in September

Hindringham Primary school executive headteacher Mary Dolan. Picture: Ian Burt

Hindringham Primary school executive headteacher Mary Dolan. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

A head teacher has said she is not worried about how just one pupil will start at school's reception class in September.

At Hindringham Primary School, near Fakenham, there is a 90pc vacancy rate, the highest in Norfolk.

The school has the potential for a class of 10.

It is one of 25 rural schools in Norfolk to have filled fewer than half of their reception class places.

The data for reception class admissions this September reveals that, in total, 57 primary and infant schools will have a third or more of their places vacant at the start of the school year.

And the numbers reveal a clear divide in demand - while schools in small villages are struggling to attract pupils, those in or near built-up communities such as Norwich, Wymondham, Hethersett and Thetford have waiting lists.

With funding for schools largely driven by pupil numbers, protecting the future of the county's particularly small schools has long been a concern for education chiefs.

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Across Norfolk, there were 11.1pc spare places for reception classes in September, though Norfolk County Council expects this figure to drop in the coming months.

Hindringham Primary School is part of the Pilgrim Federation, which, four years ago, saw Hindringham, Kelling, Walsingham and Blakeney Primary Schools, all of which will have empty places in September, join forces.

Executive headteacher Mary Dolan said the partnership - which sees them share a headteacher and deputy, as well as resources - kept the schools' futures sustainable.

She said: 'We would be very surprised if we got 10 children in any one year, but one pupil is particularly low.

'We aren't worried - being a federation means we stand together, giving us strength and making us sustainable.

'Our intake fluctuates throughout the year, so that number could change, but because we are federation it isn't a problem - if we were on our own, we would probably be worried.'