We did it! Culham Parochial School celebrates being saved by hard work

Herald Series: Pupils and head Matthew Attree Pupils and head Matthew Attree

A TINY primary school threatened with closure due to low pupil numbers has almost doubled in size.

Two years ago, Culham Parochial School, near Abingdon, had just 24 pupils, a budget deficit of £50,000 and no permanent headteacher.

But now it has 47 pupils on its roll, has sorted its financial problems and has recruited a permanent head.

Headteacher Matthew Attree, who was appointed in the role at the start of 2012, has seen the situation improve beyond recognition.

Mr Attree, 36, from Abingdon, said: “We will hope at the start of next year to be close to the capacity of 56. The future looks bright. I’ve seen a huge change since I’ve been here.”

Parents and children backed the campaign to save Culham Primary School, which opened in 1850, after it came under threat in November 2010. The county council threatened to close it as it had been without a headteacher for two years. By the end of the school year in 2011 it was down to just 24 pupils.

The Church of England school previously served mainly Culham and Sutton Courtenay but now pupils come from as far afield as Abingdon, Didcot and Thame.

Mr Attree added: “The nice bit for us has been the fact that we have taken children from a much wider area than we would before. It has widened the school community which is fantastic.”

The village school was finally saved from closure in May 2011.Supporters have nearly raised the money needed to clear its £50,000 deficit and hope to finally pay off the figure by the end of the 2013/14 financial year.

Fundraisers have included race nights, Christmas parties and car boot sales.

Chairman of the Save Culham School campaign Kitson Thomas is delighted with the support the school has received, but said it had been a struggle.

He is now keen to thank all the supporters who have thrown their weight behind the campaign and a special party is being planned next month.

Mr Thomas said: “We have had people who have contributed £5.33 on a monthly basis. We have had about 20 of those making a major contribution.

“We had three months to try to persuade Oxfordshire County Council that the decision was wrong.

“That was quite a testing time for everybody involved.

“We had to get enough support from the diocese, from local people and from parents and we got our MP John Howell involved.

“The council had a vote which we won by the narrowest of margins. We now have approaching 50 pupils and the school is going from strength to strength.

“Culham is a small village. It has already lost its pub. If the school would have closed that would have been it.”

Parent Andrew Churchill Stone helped to run the £5.33 scheme. He has three children at the school aged eight, seven and four. He said: “I’m confident that we will pay the debt by the end of next financial year.

“The school is thriving.”

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