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School is a shining beacon of success

PUBLISHED: 16:30 04 July 2001 | UPDATED: 10:18 03 March 2010

SMALL can be beautiful! That's the message from one Suffolk village school, which is celebrating a shining success story.

Bealings School, near Woodbridge, has just been named as one of the Government's Beacon Schools - meaning it has the job of showing the way forward for education.

SMALL can be beautiful! That's the message from one Suffolk village school, which is celebrating a shining success story.

Bealings School, near Woodbridge, has just been named as one of the Government's Beacon Schools – meaning it has the job of showing the way forward for education.

It is the only school in Suffolk with fewer than 100 pupils to win this honour – and headteacher Duncan Bathgate believes it may be the only one in East Anglia.

"We are really pleased, not just for ourselves but for other small schools too," he said.

This official recognition is a real turnaround, because about 12 years ago numbers on the roll dwindled to just 34, and the village primary was threatened with closure.

Supporters fought through the courts to save it, and won a landmark victory. Since then, the school has gone from strength to strength and numbers have almost tripled to 98.

Mr Bathgate said he didn't want to see the school get any bigger, though, because small schools have a special atmosphere and ethos.

"There's a big rural community in East Anglia and I think there's a lot of excellent teaching going on in schools in villages."

Although the school is in Little Bealings, staff prefer it to be know simply as Bealings School – to stress the fact that it serves the whole surrounding community.

The school has four full-time and two part-time teachers – but it also welcomes visits from people who are experts in various fields.

This week, storyteller Paul Jackson came in to work with the children, and author Fred Sedgwick is writing a book drawing on the children's art work. Some of their poetry has already featured in one of his previous books.

As a Beacon school, Bealings will be sharing its experience and ideas with others. This is already happening, especially with regard to written work and poetry.

Youngsters have also been involved in creating a Barbara Hepworth-style sculpture garden with all sorts of wonderful creations made from painted chicken wire.

And a group of pupils from years five and six will soon be setting off on a study trip to Paris, to see the artwork of Monet and Picasso.

SATS results are very good, with 100 per cent of 11-year-olds reaching level four last time round, and a number achieving level five and even level six.

However, Mr Bathgate stressed that school life is not just about results, the social side being equally important.

There's a lot of enthusiasm for sport at Bealings, and a team from the school recently won a football tournament against three other schools, Waldringfield, Nacton and Bucklesham. The four schools are all members of a federation, is a cluster of small schools in the area.

Another recent sporting success came when Bealings children joined forces with pupils from Waldringfield to win a swimming contest.

One of the most special things about the school is its old buildings, which staff and pupils love.

"The worst thing that could happen for us would be if somebody offered to build a new school," said Mr Bathgate.

"These buildings are great – they're cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and have so much character. Every room is different."

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